A Ghanaian co-operative is proving that West African cocoa has a place in the specialty chocolate market, but following its example might not be easy
Craft chocolate makers spend much of their time seeking out unique flavours from small producers. By and large, they have done so in the Americas and the Caribbean. West Africa, home to the world’s largest producers of cocoa – Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – has rarely been seen as a source of high quality, fine flavour cocoa, but that is changing, albeit slowly.
ABOCFA, a co-operative in Suhum in the Eastern Region of Ghana, is selling fine flavour cocoa to buyers from Europe and the US, proving that there is a demand for West African cocoa in the craft chocolate market. But ABOCFA isn’t like any other co-operative in the country – apart perhaps from Kuapa Kokoo, the long-established co-operative of farmers in Ghana who grow all the cocoa in the chocolate sold by Divine in the UK.
ABOCFA now sells cocoa to Tony’s Chocolonely and Darnhouwer in The Netherlands, Kaoka in France, Felchlin in Switzerland, Taza Chocolate and Tcho Chocolate in the US, Tachibana in Japan and, more recently, to Uncommon Cacao, which sources fine flavour cocoa for craft chocolate makers in the US.
So, what’s ABOCFA’s secret? Firstly, it is Fair Trade and organic certified; secondly it uses a bean tracker system developed with Tony Chocolonely and Chainpoint to trace cocoa back to the farmers that are its members; and last, but most importantly, it grows cocoa with a flavour profile that the craft chocolate market wants, cocoa with a classic rich, fudgey and chocolatey flavour that consumers love.
Training farmers to ferment correctly
The Ghanaian co-op has also invested significantly in quality: for example, although the cocoa that farmer members grow is not centrally fermented (the farmers use fermentation on their farms) ABOCFA trains its member to use an approved seven-day fermentation and raised drying process that helps to elevate the quality of every batch. Because it is organic certified, the cocoa is kept in a warehouse where it doesn’t come into contact with beans grown by hundreds of other co-operatives, as would usually be the case in Ghana.
Craft chocolate makers have long had concerns about forced labour and child labour in the cocoa sector in West Africa, but ABOCFA has also partnered with the International Cocoa Initiative to promote child well-being in cocoa growing communities.
Uncommon Cacao’s founder and CEO Emily Stone told C&CI that ABOCFA’s cocoa has a clean, clear chocolatey flavour that meets the needs of the craft chocolate makers. Her company came to ABOCFA after Jesse Last, Director of Sourcing and Strategic Initiatives at Taza Chocolate started buying cocoa from the co-op. As Mr Last explained, on visiting the cooperative in Ghana, he found that Tony’s Chocolonely was already there.■ C&CI
This extract is from an article that first appeared in the May’19 issue of C&CI, click on subscribe now if you wish to read the article in full and other informative articles in the current and future issues of C&CI.