Trinidad Cocoa’s Sweet Feet (article)

I’ve been meaning to share more details about Trinidad’s exclusive Trinitario cocoa ever since my highly successful post for Upside Down Chocolate pudding. After this article appeared 2 weeks ago in a local newspaper I knew it was time to start sharing the various articles and findings I’ve compiled on our local cocoa industry as well as the chocolate world on a whole :) Hopefully I’ll move a little quicker on those, until then I hope you’ll enjoy this vignette :) Some of you may also be interested to know that the cocoa estate visited below is also the one that provides Trinitario chocolate for the Valhorna Gran Couva chocolate bar :)

Cocoa’s Sweet Feet
by Heather-Dawn Herrera
Saturday Express, 7th April 2007

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This part of the globe is renowned for its superior quality cocoa. However, because of the hard work involved in cocoa farming and the non-profitability of supplying cocoa beans on the market, many estates have remained abandoned over the years.
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New initiatives for the revival of the cocoa industry have now led to the rejuvenation of cocoa estates across the country. One estate that has continued production throughout good times as well as the bad is the San Juan Estate. The San Juan Estate is situated at the head of the Lopinot valley. This estate is more than 100 years old and maintains a well-working and thriving appearance.
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Thanks to the capable hands of Cyril Cooper, this estate is now a prime location in agro-tourism. Visitors come from far and near to participate in and enjoy the multi-activities associated with the San Juan estate. Visitors gain first-hand knowledge of the workings of such an estate and learn of the culture and traditions of its people. They also get to sample the products in the local cuisine of the estate. Several international documentaries have been filmed at this location (list).

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The San Juan Estate is primarily a cocoa estate, though visitors see coffee, clove, citrus, provision, even horticulture, being practised here.
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Cooper was born into the cocoa and he is now known as the best cocoa dancer in the land. This true son of the soil derives pleasure from conducting tours of his estate. He takes you through the entire process, from the actual picking of the pods to the tasting of a steaming cup of chocolate.
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Cooper’s cocoa ranges from the original plants grown from the seed, to those produced from grafts, as well as those produced by cloning.
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The visitor learns from Cooper’s demonstrations that grafted plants grow in the shape of a bush and do not grow a tap root to effectively support the tree as the original ones do.
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“Plants produced from cloning obviously come from the best trees because we choose the healthiest ones to make more just like them. This type is known as 1188. The beans are full and these large pods reach right down to the ground.”
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Touching the Earth: Type 1188, cocoa produced from cloning, reaches down to the ground


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According to Cooper, cocoa production and processing is hard work, but this type of farming is productive and profitable. Cooper derives satisfaction from being able to demonstrate this type of farming to visitors.
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Cooper picks the cocoa then throws the pods into a heap. He then cracks the pods and shells out the beans from the inside.
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“The big pods have 52 seeds. When I get my head of seeds, I put them in bags to sweat. This process is called fermentation. Later the fermented beans are brought to the cocoa house and scattered for drying.”
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Cooper’s cocoa house is still in prime condition, the wheels rolling back the roof to expose the drying floor. Now, the traditional entertainment, Cooper’s favourite, beings.
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“Dancing the cocoa here is like having a party. You dance and the dancing gets stronger as you sip some country tonic, rum and Coke, to boost your performance.”
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Having a party: Dancing the cocoa


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While onlookers sing and play music, Cooper and all who wish to participate dance atop the mound of beans, round and round in a circle, feet shuffling and crushing the beans in continuous rhythm. Water is sprinkled on the beans to get the slime off, while one person rakes the scattered beans with a wooden rake back into the circle.
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Teamwork: Sprinkling and raking the cocoa


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Cocoa dancing is also referred to as “polishing the cocoa” because, in effect, you are cleaning the beans.
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All In the Feet: Cyril Cooper dances the cocoa


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After further drying, Cooper pans the beans to eliminate unwanted entities. He then roasts the lot. After pounding it with a mortar pestle, he again pans it to further clean it out.
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Cooper now adds ingredients, all derived from the estate. Orange peel, nutmeg, clove, spice and tonca bean are some of the local ingredients used. These are added to the cocoa and pounded into a mass to make chocolate.
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“This is called processing the cocoa. You add all our spices and pound it into a soft moist mass. This takes about 15 minutes. You then scoop it out and form it into balls with your hands. These are later packaged for marketing.”
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Cooper, a true cocoa host, grated and boiled some for us to sample. The aroma of the boiling chocolate was tantalising and we could hardly wait to sit and sip cups of steaming hot chocolate here in the peaceful setting of the Lopinot hills.

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  • http://erdecai.blogspot.com erdecai

    Thanks for the article. It is very interesting.

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      Hi erdecai :) Welcome! So glad you liked the article :) I don’t speak any spanish but I added you to my blogroll as the pictures are so clear to follow :)

  • http://erdecai.blogspot.com erdecai

    Thanks for the article. It is very interesting.

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      Hi erdecai :) Welcome! So glad you liked the article :) I don’t speak any spanish but I added you to my blogroll as the pictures are so clear to follow :)

  • http://www.bakingandbooks.com Ari (Baking and Books)

    I enjoyed this post, I feel like I learned a lot! Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      you’re welcome ari :) I’m glad you liked it :D I checked out your blog. It’s really interesting as well! Have added it to my blogroll :)

  • http://www.bakingandbooks.com Ari (Baking and Books)

    I enjoyed this post, I feel like I learned a lot! Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      you’re welcome ari :) I’m glad you liked it :D I checked out your blog. It’s really interesting as well! Have added it to my blogroll :)

  • Stephanie ramsaroop

    Hi,
    this is really wonderful article. i am a student at the University of the West Indies currently doing research on Cocoa production In Trinidad and Tobago. I was wondering if you could inform of how I can get in contact with Mr.Cyril Cooper to obtain some more information, or anyone else with a prominent Cocoa estate.
    Thank you
    :-)

  • Stephanie ramsaroop

    Hi,
    this is really wonderful article. i am a student at the University of the West Indies currently doing research on Cocoa production In Trinidad and Tobago. I was wondering if you could inform of how I can get in contact with Mr.Cyril Cooper to obtain some more information, or anyone else with a prominent Cocoa estate.
    Thank you
    :-)

  • lloyd from tobago 70yr old

    this is for stephanie ramasaroop. i can tell you all about the cocoa history. i used to work the cocoa plantation in charlottville tobago. 973 733 2288 new jersey usa

  • lloyd from tobago 70yr old

    this is for stephanie ramasaroop. i can tell you all about the cocoa history. i used to work the cocoa plantation in charlottville tobago. 973 733 2288 new jersey usa

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