Notes from a Craft Chocolate Maker…

As a craft chocolate maker in Portugal, I had been thinking for a while, of visiting a cocoa farm to see not only the planting of cacao trees, but also all the processes of harvesting, cracking, fermentation, and drying of the beans. I was really interested in observing and learning what happens to cacao beans before they are bagged and shipped for me to purchase and turn into chocolate. I wanted to meet farmers – the persons that produce such an exquisite crop.  I was curious and want to know- how did they start growing cacao?  How and why do they continue to do so. What challenges do they experience in the cacao farming business?  Reading about cacao, seeing pictures in books, and imagining how it could be is OK. I however, wanted the sensory experience of being on site, to see the land, inhale the smells, tastes the beans, and hold cacao pods in my hands.

My trip began with I participated in a CocoaTown webinar

A happy lady from Trinidad introduced herself as the sister of a cocoa farmer. She talked about her family farm and that recently, cocoa beans from their farm had been considered in the best top 50 beans in the world. I thought…, uau! I would like to visit this place. 

I decided to write Wynette applying for a “farm internship”. Surprisingly, a couple of days later, she replied saying she will contact two other farmers to be part of my “internship” experience. After a dozen emails, and two calls by WhatsApp, my cocoa trip became real! Wynette organized the trip and attended to all the planning details.

In February 2022, after a very long flight from Portugal, I arrived in Trinidad. At the airport, the immigration officer asked what I was going to do in Trinidad (it was still pandemic season and may places were closed).  I replied, “I’m on a cocoa trip”, and he said, “We have got the best cocoa in the world”.   I replied, “I know, that´s why I am here”. My passport was stamped! Wynette met at the airport… my cocoa trip was on. It was evening. I was in the tropics, with a hot and gentle breeze.

1st farm. Jacinta and Michael Milne’s Bethany Estate  @bethany_estate_tt It was wonderful to meet and stay with Jacinta and Michael. From the first minute, I felt very welcomed. Jacinta and Michael shared with great passion, the history of Bethany Estate, how they started the farm, their aims and vision, how they manage the place, what they plant, how and why they do what do.

At Bethany Estate…

…I had my first taste of the cacao pulp…hmmm! What a marvelous flavor! I will always remember this moment! I saw and tasted different kinds of fruits and vegetables, some we don´t have in Europe and I had never heard of. As we walked through the land Michael always pointed me to some vegetable or fruit tree that he had planted. Jacinta taught me to prune the cocoa trees, and I actually did a couple of cuts!

At the farm, I was introduced to Dr. Darin Sukha, from the Cocoa Research Centre of The University of the West Indies, Mathew Escalante and Siddiqa Ragbirsingh

Cocoa Development Officers at the Cocoa Development Company Limited. These individuals contribute to the development of the cocoa industry by providing invaluable outreach services, training, and research data to farmers. In spite of all the doubts and concerns about cocoa tree farming and chocolate making, I realized that farmers in Trinidad can access information and support at different stages alone the cocoa value chain.

On a lovely afternoon, we went to Yerettê-Home of the Hummingbird, where Dr. Theo Fergusson revealed to me the world of these amazing creatures. It was the first time I saw hummingbirds – they really are beautiful and special birds. The first leg of my trip ended with a visit to two chocolatiers- Cocoa Pod and Cocobel- each with different styles and approaches to the business of chocolate, but both have very good chocolate.

As a Portuguese citizen, it was a pleasure to meet and talk with Dr. Jo-Anne Ferreira, about the history of Portuguese immigration in Trinidad. I was unaware of this historical connection, so it was a great joy to be gifted with an autograph copy of her book: The Portuguese of Trinidad and Tobago: Portrait of an Ethnic Minority.

2nd farm. After Bethany, I went to Aripo, to Charamal Estate owned by Annette Mills. This farm in the mountains, is very beautiful. Annette is a tough lady driving a 4×4 pickup truck. She is always on the move, never stands still. She is always doing something or thinking about something!

Annette put me at work immediately. I picked cocoa pods, removed the beans from the pods cracked by Annette, observed how beans are prepared for fermentation and drying, washed dried fermented beans before they were packaged. I loved doing this “hands-on” work.

As well as being a farmer, Annette is also a chocolate maker. Her chocolate is produced at her home in Balandra-a village on the Trinidad’s east coast. When not working on the farm, we talked about cocoa, and chocolates and shared ideas. I even got a chance to have a lovely swim in the Atlantic Ocean.

3rd farm. From Aripo, I spent a night in Port of Spain, and left the next day for the Roods and Perches Farm in Tableland, in south-eastern Trinidad. I spend a full day with Wynette and her brother, Dr. Winthrop Harewood. They trusted me to plant 5 cocoa trees on the farm, in a place we named “Monica´s Row”.

It was both an honor and a pleasure to do the planting (with some guidance from Winthrop). As we walk through the land, and picked some ripe pods from the trees, Wynette and Winthrop talked about their cocoa projects for sustainable organic cocoa farming and future plans to expand the acreage under production. I was told the trees in Monica’s Row would be bearing pods in about three years.

Before leaving Trinidad, I still had time for a one-day cultural trip in Port of Spain with Wynette and Bethany Milne to the National Museum, where I got a glimpse of the history of Trinidad, and two art galleries where I saw very good paintings from Caribbean artists. My last activity was a trip to Maracas Beach, where I had the traditional and delicious bake and shark. By the way, during the trip, I had the chance to have delicious meals! These ladies cook in fantastic ways!

Departure time. I left my work boots and most of my clothes in Trinidad and filled my backpack with cocoa beans from Roods and Perches, organic cocoa nibs from Bethany Estate and cocoa butter and cocoa powder from Charamal Estate. My backpack has never been so heavy, but it has never smelled so good either. Safely back in back in Portugal, I used some of the cocoa butter and nibs to make Easter bonbons and mendiants.

This was a wonderful experience. I learned not only about cocoa and chocolates, but also about the history, nature, art, culture, and culinary delights of Trinidad, and experienced human kindness. Thank you Wynette for organizing such a wonderful and smooth trip. I am very grateful, as this experience was like a dream come true. It was a great joy!

Have you ever experienced a cocoa adventure tour?

In the month of February, visitors from Europe and elsewhere come to Trinidad to experience our sunshine, beaches, and carnival activities. In February 2022, however, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker Monica Cardoso from Portugal, substituted cocoa for carnival, by participating in our Cocoa Adventure Tour – a seeing and doing agro-tourism experience.

The two-week immersion tour began on Feb 12th and involved visits to three cocoa farms: Jacinta and Michael Milne’s Bethany Estate in Talparo, Annette Mill’s Charamal Estate in Heights of Aripo, and Roods and Perches in Tableland. Based on Trinidad’s flavour profile map, the farms in agro-ecological zones 3, 1 and 5 respectively, have differences in terroir.

Other significant differences are in acreage or size; topography – flat (Bethany Estate), undulating (Roods and Perches), hilly (Charamal), and years of operations. Their common denominator, however, is cocoa excellence in the production of fine flavour Trinitario cocoa.

The Cocoa Adventure experience enabled our visitor to participate “hands-on” in farm activities such as-planting young trees, organic farming practices, pruning branches, harvesting, and cracking pods, setting fermenting boxes, raking / turning beans in drying tray, preparing dried beans for market.

In addition to the field activities, there was time for networking and information sharing with local chocolatiers and knowledge experts in fine flavour cocoa, and traditional cultural practices in local cocoa farming.

The beach activities included visits to Balandra Bay on Trinidad’s north- east coast, and Maracas Bay for mouthwatering bake and shark and coconut water. Non- cocoa activities featured visits to the National Museum, two art galleries and hummingbird watching at Yerettê, A copy of The Portuguese of Trinidad and Tobago: Portrait of an ethnic minority, signed by author Jo-Anne S. Ferreira, completed the Cocoa Adventure package.

Our bean-to-bar chocolate maker, departed for Portugal via Amsterdam on Feb 26th, with a better understanding and deeper appreciation of how Theobroma cacao is grown, and the processes involved in producing fine flavour, fermented, sundried cocoa beans. She was happy to substitute cocoa for a taste of carnival.

If you are interested in a Roods and Perches Cocoa Adventure tour or wish to get more information on our agro-tourism product, please contact Wynette at 1 868 689 1973 or if your prefer email us – info (at) roodsandperchescocoatt (dot) com

Why are cacao nibs considered a healthy, natural, nutritionally rich super-food?

What Are Cacao Nibs?

Following the harvest, cacao beans are pulled out of the pods, fermented, and dried. Cacao nibs are simply crushed bits of the ‘meat’ from those raw cacao beans.

One tablespoon of cacao nibs contains approximately two grams of fiber.

Nibs are rich in:

  • antioxidants
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • magnesium

They contain essential heart-healthy fats, oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat, vitamins E, B1, B2,B3,B5, and B9 plus theobromine. This makes it an excellent mood enhancer and anti-depressant.

How to Use Cacao Nibs

You can use raw or roasted cacao nibs in a variety of dishes, from sweet to savory. A teaspoon or two will add pizzazz to your morning oatmeal, or pump up the flavor in a chocolate smoothie. Top your favorite sundae or parfait with nibs for a flavor and nutrition boost.

Make cacao nibs your healthy go-to snack!

Trinidad and Tobago cocoa farmers have been ranked in the 50 Best of the World

Roods and Perches are happy to be a part of this group!

The Cocoa Development Company TT (CDCTT) said the cocoa beans of Annette Mills, Winthrop Harewood and the farmers of the Four Roads Tamana Cluster were among those that made the top 50.

The Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago [CDCTT] told Newsday via WhatsApp that,

The achievement of these farmers was no small feat, as their beans were blindly evaluated from 235 samples received by Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) from 53 countries, including TT”

Read on here…

We’re in the News!

Put our Cocoa in the Sun

Cocoa from Trinidad held its own in global rankings last week, when cocoa beans cultivated by Annette Mills, Winthrop Harewood and the farmers of the Four Roads Tamana Cluster made the top 50 cut in the Best of the World rankings.

In October, the flavourful beans will go on to compete in the next round of the international Cocoa Excellence programme. Blind-evaluated from a field of 235 entries from 53 countries, these beans were submitted from the winners of TT’s 2021 National Cocoa Awards. – Read more here…

Roods & Perches gets an award!

At the virtual Cocoa of Excellence 2021 Awards ceremony on 16 December 2021, in Italy, the Roods and Perches sample (Commercial Sample No. 1120201701 – CoEx Sample Code: 353/21), received a Silver Award, one of two silver awards presented to producers from Trinidad and Tobago.

The 2021 Edition of the Cocoa of Excellence Awards recognised 16 Gold, 17 Silver, and 17 Bronze awardees in the four global cocoa- producing regions of the world. C

Check out our local and international winners here


The process

Fifty-three (53) cocoa producing regions participated in the 2021 Edition of the Cocoa of Excellence Awards.

Two hundred and thirty-five (235) cocoa bean samples were received, assigned a blind code, and evaluated.

Of these, two hundred and thirty-four) 234 cocoa bean samples were processed into cocoa liquor and evaluated blindly by the eleven members of the Cocoa of Excellence Technical Committee, a panel of international experts in sensory evaluation.

From the liquor evaluation, the Best 50 high quality cocoa samples were selected to represent the four global cocoa-producing regions.

Trinidad and Tobago is in the Central America and Caribbean Region.

The sample from Roods and Perches was among the Best 50 high quality liquor samples.

The liquor samples were then processed into a dark chocolate, tempered, and molded. The Best 50 samples were evaluated blindly by the Cocoa of Excellence Technical Committee and a larger panel of 39 experts and professional chocolate makers.

The Cocoa of Excellence Programme was started in 2009, by the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), to recognise cocoa quality and flavour diversity in the production of cocoa.

The Cocoa of Excellence Award is a global competition to recognise the work of cocoa farmers and celebrate the diversity of cocoa flavours across the different cocoa producing regions of the world.

To participate in the competition, cocoa farmers have to submit a sample of 5kgs of well-prepared, fermented, and dried beans to their local National Organizing Committee (NOC).

In Trinidad and Tobago, the NOC is the Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (CDCTTL).

The bean sample is evaluated locally for physical, whole, and cut bean sensory qualities.

The Roods and Perches sample received 2nd place in the local leg of the competition and was selected to represent T&T at the international competition in Italy.

We sell beans

We sold 6 KGs of fermented dry beans to a local patisserie.

We are not sure how they intend to use the beans but we read this article on “How to Cook with Cocoa Nibs” and found some interesting info.

What cocoa nibs go with

Introduce cacao nibs to chocolate desserts – help pick out the more complex, bitter notes of a chocolate moussechocolate fondant or chocolate torte. Unsurprisingly, the flavours of cacao nibs make a natural partner to other flavours known to go well with chocolate, like fresh or dried fruits, caramel, coffee and nuts.

The hard texture of cacao nibs make it an interesting replacement for nuts in granolabrownies and biscuits. Also use it as a garnish to top soft mousses and parfaits, and experiment with more unusual applications like tuiles.

Chocolate and Cocoa Nibs…

a delicious healthy indulgence!

Dark chocolate with its high cacao content is a nutrient-dense food. Cacao, a key ingredient in dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, fiber and minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, and manganese.

Cocoa is a super-food with contains essential heart-healthy fats, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B9 and E.

Do you know consuming:

  • Raw cacao in the form of cocoa nibs is a healthy snack that is also a super-food.
  • Chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa is healthier than traditional milk or white chocolate. Eat dark chocolate – i.e., chocolate with 70-90 percent cocoa. It’s good for you.
  • Cacao has theobromine which makes it an excellent mood enhancer and anti-depressant. Eating chocolate make you feel good.

Soo…make chocolate and cocoa nibs your healthy go to snack.