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Growing and Fermenting Chocolate in the Parish of St. Mary


    Steve Belnaviz‘s farm in Islington. Steve is the farmer who first got
    Nancy interested in Jamaican chocolate.





    "Chamba" (Lloyd Scott), a 70-year old farmer in Islington, harvesting cocoa

    pods for our fermenting practice.  Click on this link for a clip of a tour of his farm 










    Sastri McPherson and Nancy practice the art of opening

    the pods and beginning the fermenting process.







    At Sastri's yard in Port Maria, he has set up an experimental fermenting station.  Here he is fermenting 

    beans from Chamba's pods in an aluminum pan with holes for drainage for

    about 1 week, covered with banana leaves followed by a week

    of drying. The pile has to be big enough to generate enough heat for the fermentation to really

    change the properties of the bean to the achieve the fine chocolate flavor and aroma that a chocolatier seeks.








    On February 15, 2008 we held our first organic co-op organizing

    meeting for chocolate farmers in Islington, Jamaica to introduce

    them to organic farming principles and to meet Dr. Dwight E.

    Robinson (on the right) of the Jamaican Organic Agriculture

    Movement (http://www.joamltd.org).








   This August (2009) we had two more meetings and invited Mr. Ellis to speak to the group

about the services of the Jamaican Agricultural Society for which he is the parish President.




Farmers in Cane Heap, also in the parish of St. Mary, have been organized by the Jamaican Cocoa Farmers Association. 

The USAID has helped to fund a pilot greenhouse project to assess its effectiveness for drying fermented beans.  Below, farmers learn how temperature plays in key role in fermenting.


Farmer Wright from Flint River places newly harvested beans

on a spread of banana leaves prior to fermenting. (Thanks to USAID for

providing these pictures).


Most Jamaicans have never tasted chocolate like the ones I make and are popular today, using high percentages of cacao.

Many years ago Cadbury had a factory in Highgate, Jamaica.  It ultimately sold to Jamaicans who made a variety of chocolate bars

for many years.  Unfortunately it closed about 5 years ago, when bank loans were called in sooner than expected.  Currently, the only cocoa production 

is in Manchester where a small company makes cocoa powder and syrup.  The way that Jamaicans use their chocolate is making cocoa tea. 

To make cocoa tea, the dried beans are ground with a mortar and pestle or sometimes with a mortar in the stump of a tree.  The ground

beans form a paste, like peanut butter, to which is added sugar, and typically nutmeg and cinnamon.  As the temperature lowers, the ball

hardens and is stored.  When ready for tea, the ball is grated into steaming hot water.  Sometimes milk is added but fresh milk is not readily available.

In this picture, provided by the USAID, a group of women are weighing their product - they have begun making cocoa tea balls for export.