Rio Claro Cocoa Beans Among World’s Best

August 18, 2017: Cocoa beans produced by the Rio Claro Demonstration Station, a small agriculture unit in the Nariva / Mayaro county office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries are among the 50 best bean samples in the world, according to a panel of judges at the Salon du Chocolat, the annual showcase of the industry’s leading chocolatiers and chocolate makers.

“It was an experimental six-week project to teach farmers how to do drying,” said County Officer Florencia Beckles who heads a 15-person team at the station, which includes Station Manager Sashtri Doon and Quality Officer Roger Poliah.

“About 75 percent of the estates in the county are abandoned,” Beckles explained. “We wanted to show the farmers that given the microclimate of this area the quality of the beans was excellent. We wanted to give them a reason to get back into production; show them they could produce quality dried beans themselves and get a good price on the market.”

Experimental or not, the achievement stands out on account of the cultivation techniques used by staff of the Rio Claro Demonstration Station as well as the team’s reliance on inexpensive, “low-tech” methods—beans were sun-dried, for example—for producing high quality cocoa.

“Cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago is not generic,” Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat explained. “It's plant, soil, and geography-specific. Farm practices create the bean. It is not accidental at all. Rio Claro is such a small team; I think that is what makes this a remarkable accomplishment.”

In short, it matters how and where the cocoa grows. With almost 30 acres in Ecclesville under cocoa cultivation, the Rio Claro project team harvested pods that were predictably sweet and consistent in quality with other varieties of “trinitario” beans native to Trinidad and Tobago.

In fact, so popular are trinitario beans with the world’s chocolate cognoscenti that this year’s Salon du Chocolat features “single-origin” cocoa from not one but two Trinidad and Tobago locales: the Rio Claro Demonstration Station and the San Juan Estate in Gran Couva whose samples also earned top 50 recognition.

And just this week, Tobago Cocoa Estate’s ‘Laura’ milk bar, also made from the finest trinitario beans, won gold in the semifinal round of another competition, the International Chocolate Awards.

Held in Paris from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, the Salon du Chocolat will host 500 participants from more than 60 countries, including 200 world-renowned chefs and pastry chefs.

To qualify for the finals of the International Cocoa Awards, one of the Salon du Chocolat’s marquee events, the top 50 bean samples will be processed into chocolate following which they will undergo sensory evaluation through September by a panel of 40 experts.

Some 12-15 finalists are expected to be named by mid-October with the final award ceremony carded for October 30th, 2017.

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For further information contact:

Yolande Agard-Simmons

Head, Communications and Events, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries

Cell: (868) 499-0770

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