Pairing chocolate to a book that deals with grief, loss and the trauma of leaving one’s home is not an easy brief. It was an unsettling read, but also a reminder that the lives of the people who grow our cacao face their own challenges which sometimes includes violence and displacement. Having discovered that Colombia faces one of the world’s most acute internal displacement situations associated with conflict and violence – second only to Syria (IDCM 2019)- this was an opportunity to take a look at how this affected the lives of cocoa farmers and traders in Colombia and taste chocolate made from cacao grown by one of these communities.
Without the brilliant crafting, Lefteri’s hard-hitting narrative may have been just too difficult to read. The careful use of bees, honey and beekeeping as a symbol of happiness and security in the clever interplay between memory, reality, past and present provides that essential glimmer of hope. We tasted bean to bar chocolate masterfully created using the tastes, textures and tones of honey.
Bars 1 & 2: Bars from Naïve and Hogarth paired with The Beekeeper of Aleppo.
At the suggestion of reading Lefteri’s story of the Syrian beekeeper, the words of Domantas Uzpalis in the first issue of Cacao Magazine sprung immediately to mind: “… a beekeeper is a nice person by default. Same with chocolate makers, they are nice people by default.” Also, as Domantas points out, like beekeepers and in a more sombre way, like refugees, our chocolate makers have different backgrounds, stories and experiences too. This struck a chord with me at the time. It is so true and one of the things that make the industry and people so captivating.
Domantas himself came from a corporate career in IT and Karl from Hogarth chocolate, before moving into the oil and gas industry, had skippered his own trawler, sometimes “working in atrocious sea conditions with nowhere to shelter.” We speculated that as a chocolate maker, not only was Karl as nice as a beekeeper but that he could also empathise with Nuri and the other refugees on their terrifying sea crossings.
First, Naïve’s 67% Ambrosia bar with bee pollen and honey. It started with a deep, earthy and enticing aroma. The texture of the bee pollen (we presumed) was detectable through the gentle, even melt. The flavour experience was compared to sipping honey sweetened drinking chocolate, not complex or demanding, just sumptuous. Then rising, from that dark chocolate experience came the scented notes, bringing the lightness of bees in flight & the promise of honey. But it was in the aftertaste we found the real honey, a sweet floral taste leaving the sensation of having eaten honey rather than chocolate. Sublime!
In the Hogarth bar, the honey foraged from the Manuka was upfront this time. The smooth mouthfeel gave the impression of eating honey. The honey was the dominant force, singing outright from the start, with the crunchy nibs, deep chocolate and orange citrus notes of the cacao taking second place. The aftertaste was sweet and lingering. A stunning taste experience appreciated by all and a new favourite for some.
Bars 3 & 4: Colombia, Tumaco bars from Tosier and Tibito
Unless the refugee crisis touches your life directly, it is easily overlooked. Accompanying Nuri and Afra through the terror & personal suffering of their journey forces you to open your eyes. Here in Louth, we have one Syrian family rehoused in the town: one Nuri and Afra. But, there are 5.6 million Syrian refugees, and another 6.2 million displaced within Syria. We loved how Lefteri brought the immensity of the crisis down to a personal level but knowing the numbers makes it even harder to read.
Syria we are aware of, but Colombia is talked about even less. Syria’s 6.2 million internally displaced people is 7.7million in Colombia with an additional 1.5 million refugees from Venezuela.
Exploring the theme of population displacement took me to reports of COVID-19 increasing migration but also armed conflict and gendered violence. Further research led to the Uncommon Cacao Origin updates telling of the difficulties faced by cacao farming communities in Tumaco; their health fears due to the influx of people fleeing the pandemic in Ecuador and the work being done by @CacoaHunters to support them. This is the reason for the pairing with bars made with Tumaco cacao.
First, the Tosier 70% bar. The aroma promised dried fruits with a splash of good coffee. We appreciated its velvety smoothness then as the flavours developed the dried fruits suggested in the aroma gave way to cherry and hazelnut chocolate spread. Very gratifying!
Out next taste of Tumaco came from @Tibito. It smelt like milk chocolate! Cream and hazelnuts. A cool swift melt, with hints of cocoa for some and rich coffee for others, then ripening banana with sharper pineapple notes appearing towards the finish. The aftertaste returned us the gentle hazelnut notes. Another engaging experience.
Our Tumaco origin bars were not as challenging as the lives of the communities living with the threat of violence and the fear of pandemic driven immigration. We did, however, appreciate them the more having been made aware of our privilege in being able to enjoy them and the insight into their origin.
Sources and further reading:
IDMC, 2019. Internal Displacement: Global Report. [Online]
Available at: https://www.internal-displacement.org/global-report/grid2019/
[Accessed 19 September 2020].
Reinhardt, L. T., 2019. Meet the Maker: Chocolate Naive. Cacao: Issue One, Spring/Summer, pp. 92-93.
Uncommon Cacao, 2020. COVID-19 Origin Updates as of 5/1/2020. [Online]
Available at: https://www.uncommoncacao.com/blog?offset=1589238451010
[Accessed 19 September 2020].