Sunday, 13 April 2008

Centeno is just one of the government's agricultural farms. Many hardy varieties of fruit trees can be found here and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly. When I visited a few years ago to buy a cocoa plant- they were amused- why did I want one cocoa plant? It's a sensible question because there's not much you can do with one cocoa tree except admire it and occasionally eat the pulpy white flesh from around the slightly bitter pod. I must have really lucked out that day because I got a sturdy, prolific plant that seems to be a different variety from the ones I see on the old cocoa estates. My cocoa is yellow with a nubby skin. Many others that I see are smoother skinned and are often smaller and run the gamut from yellow to red to the occasional magenta. I keep meaning to find out how many varieties we have on the island. With just 17,000 square feet of land, serious cocoa production was never an option, but a bumper crop last year resulted in so many seedlings and I am toying with the idea of trying to make my own chocolate.
Trinidad's cocoa is world renowned. It is said to be the best in the world and before the heyday of oil, this was the first black gold to carry the country's economy.
According to The Worldwide Gourmet ......
Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela… cocoa trees were introduced to the West Indies by Benjamin Dacosta and from there began to be propagated in the northern regions of South America.
Some are listed on the stock exchange. They constitute 8% of the market, representing fine grade cocoa, the market's other "black gold." They include the Trinitario cocoa grown in Trinidad and Grenada, the national cocoa of Ecuador and some criollos from Venezuela.
Trinidad's Trinitario

It is Trinidad that leads the pack, however, with its favoured growing conditions in which soil, climate and tradition team up to produce a top-quality product. On the forest-covered hills, 120,000 trees produce up to 100 tonnes of the finest cocoa, trinitario, a hybrid created in 1939 from the fragile criollo and the hardy African forastera, a graft that received the blessing of the Imperial College, the colonial cocoa administrators. Delicate flavour combined with strong fruitiness are the marks of trinitario cocoa which goes into making the world's finest "couverture" chocolates. It grows on what is here called "cocoa soil," a sandy clay soil looked after by ladies in hair curlers who slowly and methodically weed around the trees. The men trim the cocoa trees yearly, cutting them back every four years to maintain a height of 5 to 8 metres to make harvesting easier.