A sweet comeback for Venezuelan cocoa

All’s I can say about this is, YUM.

Much of the funding to kickstart this new wave of organic farming came from the Venezuelan government, which has injected some $10m on research and training, as well as from the European Union via a local non-governmental organisation called Tierra Viva.

The world’s chocolate gourmets are looking to Venezuelan beans.

Word has reached European and North American chocolate makers that this Latin American country is the hottest place on the organic chocolate map.

Several Italian, French and American chocolate manufacturers are buying organic beans from Venezuela.

Like with exclusive claret wines or single malt whiskies, what the experts value the most is the “single bean origin” label to denote aroma and purity, and Venezuela can offer just that.

Andrea Trinci, who owns a chocolate factory and shop in Tuscany, recently visited Venezuela.

“Venezuelan cocoa is very fine, elegant and persistent in its aroma,” he says.

“I would like to see more and more organic cocoa being exported, but only at a just price.”

The local cocoa producers are now making forays into the production of their own chocolate bars.

Five kilometres down the road from Ocumare lies the seaside village of Cata, where a handful of cooperatives have started making their own organic chocolate.

The sweet smell of melting chocolate greets visitors as they enter one of the cooperative shops.

Saturmina Diaz is one of six local women involved with the project, part-funded by the government and local charities.

“We offer a wide range of products such as chocolate punch, wine and pudding,” says Mrs Diaz.

“Lots of foreign tourists come here to ask us whether we’re exporting our merchandise, but so far we haven’t had the financial means to do this. But that’s the next logical step for us.”

The cocoa producing zones of Venezuela, dotted along the Caribbean Coast and Lake Maracaibo, have gone through something of a revival.

Only a few years ago plantations and farms lay abandoned, following a series of poor harvests and droughts.

However, the roots of cocoa industry’s decline can be traced back a long way.

William Harcourt-Cooze is a British cocoa farmer who bought land in Venezuela back in the 1990s.

“Prior to the discovery of petroleum here and the subsequent oil boom in the thirties and forties, cocoa was Venezuela’s number one export,” he says.

“But the government of President Chavez is aware that cocoa could once again be one of the country’s main exports.”

Driving around some of these old cocoa communities, with their colonial-style churches and village squares, there seems to be a new sense of pride and purpose in people’s faces.

As one elderly farmer puts it, with a smile on his face:

“The world is talking about us again. I’ve waited a whole lifetime for that to happen. Sometimes I felt like throwing in the towel, but now I’m glad I didn’t.”

I’m glad, too. As should any chocolate conoisseur be. I’ve been sampling chocolate from Cuba and Ecuador, both of which are delectable. Organic, fair-trade Venezuelan chocolate would be a dream come true for me!

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One Response to A sweet comeback for Venezuelan cocoa

  1. denisdekat says:

    Awesome! I love chocolate…
    It is my favorite thing to get fat with!

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