In the morning I awoke to the sounds of the cockerels and Brad, the proud Peacock, heralding the start of a new day in the amazing Haiti.
I enjoyed a breakfast of a jam-filled Danish pastry and a clutch of grapes before driving the short distance to the local hospital.
My driver for the morning was waiting anxiously to whisk me off to PISA Cocoa Processing Centre in Acul de Nord a 45minute drive from Haiti’s second city, Cap Haitien to start our chocolate safari®
We travelled along dusty roads taking in the vibrant and often chaotic sights and sounds. Traffic consisted of motorbikes carrying three and sometimes four people, tap taps carrying enough folk to give even the most laid back Health & Safety inspector a heart attack.
The streets were lined with vendors selling their wares amongst the litter which served to highlight the abject poverty that many Haitians experience. I stopped to photograph the ‘Cane Train’, three trucks pulled by a tractor carrying the waste from sugar beet used to make Clarin, the local alcoholic drink, requiring my driver to deftly avoid the oncoming traffic.
I finally arrived at my destination where the driver alerted the security guard of my presence with his car horn. He drove through the large iron gates into the processing centre where the first thing to hit me was the powerful acidic aroma I have come to associate with fermenting cocoa beans. Sheets of tarpaulin covered the ground and men armed with large rakes painstakingly spread the beans as they lay under the baking Caribbean sun. I was met by Aline, an extremely able and enthusiastic French woman who oversees the project, and we embarked on a tour of the centre.
PISA began in 2014 and is the brainchild of the DuFort family. It was originally setup to enable the local cocoa farmers to appreciate and understand the value of their product and re-establish Haiti as a fine cocoa producer. PISA works with an association of nearly 1500 producers in the foothills of the Massif de Nord mountain range.
A third of the producers are female and while there I witnessed a young girl bringing a bowl of cocoa beans to sell.
Together they manage an impressive 974 hectares of organic certified land.
The farmers receive double the income that they would normally expect for the raw cocoa beans encouraging them to protect
their trees from the charcoal market which, in turn, limits the amount of deforestation which is a major factor in the flooding that often devastates the island.
In the past farmers have brought their beans to the market place where large companies would dominate the prices resulting in poor quality and low prices.
PISA buys the wet cocoa beans straight from the pod collecting them from the farmers in a truck six days a week. Using a bowl method they purchase by volume rather than the usual weight.
The wet cocoa is then taken to the depot and placed into large wooden fermentation boxes. During the next 160 hours the cocoa beans are monitored for temperature and transferred across three different wooden boxes.
Following fermentation the beans are sun dried in the open air and in tunnels, which are specially designed for air circulation, for five to seven days until the cocoa beans reach a humidity level of
between 6.5 and 7%. Prior to weighing and bagging, a gravity table is used to remove all the dust and stones leaving a sack of clean, accurately selected cocoa beans.
Notes of plum, raisins with a floral honey aroma leading to a red wine tanic taste. Yellow fruits, citrus, mangoes and hints of rum.
Certifications: Organic, ethically and sustainably traded.