Introducing the First Round of Trinidad Microlots

La Reunion Estate: 

The La Reunion Estate is a 200 hectare estate that serves as a research farm for the Cocoa Research Section (CRS), a research division of Trinidad’s Ministry of Agriculture. Learn more about La Reunion and its research on cacao varietals here

La Corona Estate: 

La Corona Estate is the site of the brand-new post-harvest processing facility in Tamana, Trinidad. Several farmers currently contribute to the facility and they include (followed by the names of their estates): Herman Ribeiro (The Haven), Herbert Pasqual (Maiden Voyage), and Calvin David (La Pastora). Leela Butcher, Stanley’s wife, is in charge of the fermentation facility. Read more about La Corona Estate and cocoa in Tamana here

Montserrat Cooperative: 

Montserrat Cooperative began in 2009 when 5 farmers opened the conversation about organizing together to revive the cocoa farms in the Montserrat region of Trinidad. Today, 48 large and small farmers contribute to Montserrat’s pool of excellent region-specific material. Learn more about the co-op and cocoa in Montserrat here

Santa Maria Estate:

Santa Maria Estate was originally established by the Spanish in the 1800s. Today, it is owned and farmed by Myrtle Ward, who originally bought all 280 acres in the 1970s. Since then, she has sold off portions, but still lives on a section with the original 1920s estate house. Read more about the history of Santa Maria estate here.  

Tabaquite Fermentary: 

Five of the microlots in our 2017 Trinidad container (Tabaquite, Chattergoon Estate, Biche, Rio Claro, and Cedros) were fermented, dried, and packed at the Tabaquite Fermentary, a small operation in Tabaquite Village run by Harryman Chattergoon and his family. Learn more about the fermentary and cocoa in Tabaquite here

Ramnath Estate: 

Ramnath Estate is owned by Vish Ramnath (also known as G), a 48 farmer with a commitment not only to the crop and the sustainable environment in which it is cultivated, but also to his workers who are just as committed to his vision for the land. Learn more about Ramnath Estate here

 

 

Anamalai, India

Some mornings, Harish Manoj and Karthi Palaniswamy will arrive at their farm to find their young coconut palms devastated, with broken fronds as if a hurricane has come through. The source of the destruction is no storm, however—it's elephants. The farm is right at the base of the western Ghats, a mountain range which extends through the south of India. Lots of elephants (and tigers and monkeys) live on the slopes of those mountains, safe in the Anamalai animal preserve  (Anamalai is Tamil for ‘Elephant Hills’). The elephants will lumber down onto the farm at night to help themselves to the coconut trees--not for the coconuts, but for the palm fronds themselves, which, as it turns out, are perfect tools for whacking pesky mosquitos off their backs. Amongst this wild backdrop, Harish and Karthi have begun their mission to make their small valley, known for its abundance of coconuts, an unlikely source of delicious cacao.

Cacao has been produced in India for more than 50 years. Right at the end of the British Colonial Rule in India, near 1948, UK chocolate giant Cadbury set up operations in India for the distribution and sale of its products. Initially, it imported already-made chocolate from the UK. It was not long, however, before it saw an opportunity: India’s climate is suitable for cacao, so why not manufacture chocolate in India, using cacao beans grown in the country? They launched a program to introduce cacao production in the southern regions of India, complete with training programs and extensionists. To this day, the majority of cacao grown in India heads to Mondelez, the owner of Cadbury.

Given the size of India, however, its cacao production remains small, representing only 0.3% of the world’s production. There is lots of potential for that to grow; and not just to fulfill the orders of giant corporations. With a focus on best practices in cultivation, harvest, and post harvest, there is a chance to grow unique and delicious cocoa this particular microclimate—and that is what Harish and Karthi are setting out to do.

Their farm has been in the family for generations in various iterations, first as a Eucalyptus grove, and later planted with Guava trees. About 20 years ago, they planted coconuts, which dot the landscape in perfect, symmetrical rows. 10 years after that, they interspersed cacao trees amongst the coconut. Harish makes sure the land is kept healthy and the ecosystem remains diverse. The farm also grows nutmeg trees and pepper vines, which wind their way up the tall trunks of the coconut trees. Hulking, white cows wander up and down the rows of trees, helping to keep the weeds down while providing manure for fertilizer.

In the past few years, Harish and Karthi began to hone their harvest and post-harvest methods for the tastes of the fine chocolate industry. In June of 2016, they consulted with Dan O’Doherty of Cacao Services, who visited the farm and provided advice and schematics about pruning, fermentation, drying, and genetics. Over the last year they have trained their staff and ramped up production for export, building a new post-harvest facility with 5-tiered wooden ferment boxes and raised drying beds. After 2 years of working with Harish and Karthi, Meridian is super excited to be bringing the first container of Anamalai beans from their farm to the US. 

--Gino and Wynne

Kokoa Kamili Harvest Update

The 2016 cacao harvest is underway in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley!  The Kokoa Kamili team, lead by Brian LoBue, Simran Bindra, and their new operations manager, Paul Lukindo, is currently receiving, fermenting, and drying the beans harvested by the 2500 smallholder cocoa farmers that are working with Kokoa Kamili this year (that’s up from around 1700 in 2015).

The beans are extra special this year—they are certified organic! Cocoa farmers in the region traditionally farm organically, being too remote to have consistent access to chemical fertilizers and other inputs. However, to become officially certified, Kokoa Kamili and its partner farmers have gone through rigorous audits in a multi-year transition period. This February, they passed their 2015 audit and are now certified organic for both the US and the EU. Meridian is very proud to be bringing their first ever certified organic container to the US this fall.

During the offseason, Kokoa Kamili has been hard at work on infrastructure improvements at their Mbingu headquarters. In April they installed solar panels on the rooftop of their warehouse and offices. Now, instead of running a generator, they are able to tap into solar electricity for lights, fans, and computers.

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They have also set up a weather station, which has begun tracking temperature, humidity, rainfall, and wind speed in the area. The hope is that this will provide greater insight into how weather patterns are changing over time and how they are affecting yield and quality of the harvest. In addition, Kokoa Kamili is using new equipment to measure humidity and temperature in the fermentary and around the drying tables to provide more accurate data on post-harvest processing. They are running trial microlots with temperature tracking devices embedded in the fermenting cocoa mass, allowing them to fine tune quality and provide custom ferments as needed.

This year, the rains arrived quite late, making the entire harvest slightly behind schedule. Collection of wet beans is now at 50% of what it was this time last year. It is too soon to tell how the changes in weather will affect overall yield for the year, but Brian, Simran, and Paul are designing new covered drying beds that will allow Kokoa Kamili to extend operations into the wet season while maintaining the high quality you've come to expect from their bright, fruity cocoa beans. 

Meridian is looking forward to these first containers of the 21016 harvest to arrive in the fall. We'll be housing them on both the west and east coasts this year. We'll keep you posted as they land! Currently, we have 150 bags from the 2015 harvest available on the west coast. Contact us if you'd like some!

 

Presenting: Cloudforest Balao Bar

BALAO BAR  

ORIGIN: Balao, Ecuador 

FARM: Camino Verde Estate

COST: $7

WEIGHT: 1 oz.

FLAVOR NOTES: Honeysuckle, walnut and guava.

ABOUT THE BAR: The Cloudforest, Balao Bar, is 73% cacao from the Camino Verde Estate in Balao Ecuador. Camino Verde grows Nacional cacao, harvested by owner Vicente Norero. Cloudforest is Cocanú’s single origin line of chocolate bars. Using simply cocoa beans and sugar, chocolate maker Sebastian, conches the chocolate for 3 days to tame the acidity and get an ultra-smooth texture. The 1 oz. bar is molded into a perfect square.

Camino Verde cocoa is fermented with select bacterias to highlight floral and nutty flavors. A technique Vicente is known for, which results in chocolate with deep flavor precursors and lowered acidity.

CHOCOLATE MAKER: Sebastian Cisneros has been making chocolate since 2007. Born in Quito, Ecuador, Sebastian studied Economics at University of Oregon before turning to the dark (chocolate) side. 

PACKAGING DESIGN: The tri-fold packaging brings a unique experience to the consumer. Two sleeves, nicely tucked into a third, brightly colored in coral, open to reveal the gold foil wrapped square bar. One sleeve reflects the bars purpose;

“…We hope this chocolate reflects the essence of all that brought it to being—

the feats of nature, the wisdom of Camino Verde caretakers and the devotion of our chocolate makers.”

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A rectangular cutout on the front of the bar shows through to a cocoa leaf. Sebastian says, “The cacao leaves I pruned out of my cacao orchard in Ecuador, a secret little spot of mine that doesn't serve for chocolate production but for inspiration. To get there you need to go through a cloud forest, literally.”

All packaging and designs are created by Sebastian himself. 

FIND IT: Online at Cloudfore.st, local Portland, Oregon retailers; Barista, Cacao, Coava Coffee and Good Coffee. 

Cloudfore.st 

 

Camino Verde's Short Film Debut

We are very excited to share Camino Verde's short film, highlighting the farm and owner Vicente Norero's work on fermentation science.  I'm lucky enough to visit the farm a few times a year and never stop learning from Vicente and all his knowledge about cocoa farming! 

I met Vicente three years ago, while searching for a cocoa farmer who was using integrated science to yield more accurate fermentations. Vicente's fermentation style mimics that of wine makers--fermentations based on microbiology, not day lengths. Using both enzymes and inoculants, in a microbial cocktail, Vicente is able to control the fermentation process and push specific flavor precursors forward in the beans. This results in cocoa beans that are highly consistent from lot to lot in flavor. 

Camino Verde is a pioneer in the field of inoculants. Two newer experiments have resulted in Camino Verde Spice and Camino Verde Banana. These two fermentations use sugars to inoculate the beans. CV-Banana uses natural sugars from bananas, while CV-Spice uses natural sugars from pineapples combined with Aji Gallo Ecuadorian peppers. 

                                    Being an Organic farm, Camino Verde uses excess husks, banana peels and pods and converts them into a nutrient rich compost to help fertilize the soil. 

                                    Being an Organic farm, Camino Verde uses excess husks, banana peels and pods and converts them into a nutrient rich compost to help fertilize the soil. 

                                                                                                 Camino Verde harvests Organic bananas on the farm as well as National Cacao. 
                                                                                                      

                                                                                                      

If you haven't yet tried all of the five Camino Verde fermentations (CV-A, CV-B, CV-C, CV-Spice, CV-Banana), contact us for a sample! 

For more information on Camino Verde check out their Farmer Field Notes.

Peace, Love, Beans,

Gino