The popularity of dark chocolate throughout the world has surpassed just being a flavour of the month. The rapid growth in demand for fine flavour cocoa, primarily used in the sought- after dark chocolate, over the past five years, is set to continue bringing lucrative benefits to the Caribbean’s fine cocoa industry.
The world cocoa market distinguishes between two broad categories of cocoa beans: ordinary or bulk beans (around 85% of all cocoa worldwide) and fine flavour beans, which are the defining component of high quality chocolate. Together, Latin America and the Caribbean produce 80% of the world’s fine flavour cocoa and, with six of the recognised 17 countries in the world that produce and export the exotic product come from the Caribbean, the collection of small islands have earned their place to feature prominently on the world stage.
As the drive for increased consumption is coming from the more mature markets of Western Europe, North America and Japan, producers need to be aware of the specific requirements and expectations of these buyers and importers to make the most of market opportunities.
“We need to look at how to recognise and encourage the proper growing and processing of fine flavour beans and how to build links between small farms and artisan chocolate makers. Both sides can benefit from the sourcing of unusual and interesting flavours from very local sources and the production of great chocolate,” says founder of the British company Duffy’s Chocolate Duffy Sheardown.
The complex flavours of cocoa beans grown in the region have also become increasingly popular, as major chocolate manufacturers in Europe and other markets are now offering premium chocolate products in their range.
For example, cocoa from Jamaica has been described as ‘fruity’, cocoa from Grenada as ‘fruity, florally and earthen’ and cocoa from Trinidad as ‘nutty and winey’. Like coffee or wine, the taste of cocoa is unique to a region and can vary from season to season.