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Bringing My Cocoa Heritage from Grenada to the UK

Posted by: Kebera Baptiste
Co-Founder:SunSpice UK Limited

Cocoa history

Cocoa beans were prevalent in Central American cultures, specifically the Mayan civilisation, for hundreds of years. The Mayans worshipped the cacao tree and cocoa was often thought of as being the “Food of the Gods”. It was used for many different purposes. The Mayans created a ritual beverage made from ground cocoa beans, vanilla beans and other spices. It was shared during betrothal and marriage ceremonies. It was also used as a form of currency between their own civilisation and those they traded with.

Eventually, the Spanish discovered cocoa beans and began to covet them for trading. Initially, the Spaniards kept the secret of production to themselves, which gave them a monopoly on the chocolate market in Europe.

Around the mid-1600s, the Spanish no longer monopolised the chocolate market. The cocoa bean and all its versatility became very popular. The wealthy people of France loved it. In the 1700s, a Frenchman opened the very first hot chocolate shop in London.Not long after, “chocolate houses” were easily found all over London.

How cacao trees ended up in Grenada

Cacao trees were first introduced into Grenada in 1714 by the French who had settled on the island since 1650 (to then cede it to the British in 1763). The geography of the island was perfect: fertile land to grow cacao and a great location to export it to Europe. The industry achieved great success and, by the 1760s, Grenada was the largest producer and exporter of cocoa, responsible for about 50 percent of British West Indian cocoa exports. In 1772, Grenada exported 343,400 pounds of cocoa. The French and British plantation owners used slaves from the transatlantic slave trade to work on their cocoa plantations.

My Grenada ‘Isle of Spice’ heritage

I’m a British-born woman of Grenadian heritage, due to my parents having been born on the island of Grenada, known as “the Spice Island” of the Caribbean’ because of the extensive selection of spices grown on the island. Being the world’s second largest producer of nutmegs, this precious spice naturally tops the list of fragrant spices produced here. The exotic spice array includes cinnamon, pimento, cloves,bay leaves, turmeric, ginger, and mace, nutmeg, vanilla and cocoa that flourish in its fertile volcanic soil.

My parents came to England when the government was recruiting Commonwealth citizens during the 1960s to rebuild Britain after the World Wars. My mum worked as a nurse and my dad as a factory engineer at McVities. I visited the factory where my dad worked and was amazed by the amount of chocolate that was manufactured using large industrial machines.

Drinking hot chocolate was a childhood ritual every Sunday. My parents made it from cocoa that had been grown in Grenada, then ground and turned into balls. During the summer holidays, my parents took me and my siblings to Grenada, where we saw the cacao trees growing in the incredibly fertile soil.

My mum would often visit the spice market in St George’s with its history of offering the finest spices and cocoa produced on the island. I was obsessed with the idea of making hot drinking chocolate, using the spices that were grown on Grenada, especially cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.

My partner and I now visit Grenada on a regular basis and we are fascinated to see how cocoa is grown.
We discovered that the flavours of chocolates made by a local chocolatier are truly out of this world, due to the use of the unique blends of local spices used to make the chocolate.

The volcanic isle of Grenada’s soil creates conditions so unique that cocoa grown in it assumes a distinct flavour. This is mainly due to the topography of the island that produces the perfect climate and altitude for cacao trees to thrive. Also, the natural biodiversity of the farms makes it possible for cacao trees to receive exceptional nutrients from the soil, as well as appropriate shade and water. This is why Grenadian chocolate is known for having such unique spicy and fruity aromatic components. Additionally, being an antioxidant, cocoa has potentially important health benefits.

Grenada is recognised by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICO) as one of the 23 countries that produce “fine” or “flavour” cocoa,as opposed to “bulk” or “ordinary” cocoa. Grenadian cocoa farmers are striving to grow the finest cocoa beans in the world, yet they are battling climate change and struggle to obtain a fair price for their cocoa.

2.1 million children work in the cocoa fields in West Africa

Some 2.1 million children work in the cocoa fields of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Companies like Nestlé, Hershey,
Cargill, ADM, and Barry Callebaut have all admitted accountability. I totally condemn anyone exploiting children to work on their cocoa farms to feed consumers who enjoy eating chocolate in wealthy areas like Europe and the US and make substantial profits for large chocolate companies that have no ties with the local communities in those countries from where they get their cocoa beans.

SunSpice UK brings you authentic flavours from Grenada without using child labour

My partner and I have recently formed SunSpice UK Limited to offer you distinctive organic spices and chocolate flavours from Grenada.You can be assured that the cocoa and spices that we import from Grenada are ethically source and have not been produced using child labour. We make it our responsibility to visit Grenada on a regular basis to meet the farmers and their families from where we source our products and to develop a strong and transparent partnership to ensure we produce high quality products for our UK customers.This, in turn, enables our farmers and their families to receive a fair price for their products and, therefore, improve the quality of their
lives.

We’re getting ready to launch our range of organic spices and cocoa products, offering you healthier foods, beverages and supplements that have been ethically sourced from Grenada.

 

 

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