The last few posts have been intense, and simmering behind that hás been stress and emotion. Today some release from that as salary arrived and I can rest assured that there is enough money to pay the rent and bills in England. Plus the ecstatic but tired relief of completing a year of treatment …
So tonight I will turn to a completely different subject unrelated to cancer, to Kezia, but part of our life here …
The house we have built is on a plot of land 60 metres square. Too big to be all garden but not really big enough to be a profitable agricultural enterprise. Our neighbours grow everything – plantains, bananas, coffee, cacao (cocoa), breadfruit, cola, jackfruit, mangoes, oranges oil palms, trees that provide firewood, trees that provide timber etc etc, all on top of the other, and as a result they have an over-shaded mixture of everything and nothing much does very well.
So when I bought the land, I decided to concentrate on one crop. The price of cacao on the local and international markets was low and you cannot consume it without intensive and usually at least semi-industrial processing. So I decided to concentrate on my coffee plants.
On the advice of my friend C., an expert (more anon), get rid of heavy shade, maintain a light shade, encourage breeze … so I cut down my plantains and cacao. Now we have a much better coffee harvest. We maintain some oil palms – they provide palm oil which we use in traditional dishes and the dog food, three orange and two tangerine trees, a cola tree, breadfruit and jackfruit. Now there are enough but not too many shade trees to ensure a good coffee harvest.
There are three species of coffee here – Coffea arabica, C. robusta and C. liberica. Traditionally, that is the order in which they are graded. However, there are subtle differences. C. robusta is normally used for stronger Expresso-type coffee, C. arabica for your smooth, weaker breakfast coffees. The best robustas are better than the worst arabicas. Much has to do with your taste, how it is grown, how it is processed and how it is processed. C. arabica is grown above approximately 800 metres, C. robusta and C. liberica down to sealevel.
Cacao was originally introduced from Brazil in the early 19th century, at the time of Brazilian independence. And although these races of cacao originated in the Amazon, the ones that reached the Brazilian Atlantic coast stock differed little genetically from the original Amazon stock, and hence came to Africa. But since then the Brazilian Atlantic coast stock, has been genetically altered to create high-yielding varieties that have lost the original flavours/quality. And today Cote d’Ivoire is the biggest producer in the world with cacao production funding the civil war there.
The cacao seedlings were brought here by a Creole African slave trader on his return trip, fleeing from the Brazilian revolution against the Portuguese monarchy that resulted in Brazilian independence.
But over the years, higher yielding but lower quality varieties have been introduced and became the mainstay of cacao production.
C. discovered some of the original Brazilian stock here - abandoned and growing wild, in its own traditional state. High quality but low-yield.
Coffee was introduced maybe 30-40 years earlier. Again, original varieties, probably introduced from Angola, were replaced this century by modern high-yielding but low-quality hybrids.
We are at c. 250 metre and grow C. robusta. Our processing is certainly not up to C.’s standards … I can tell the difference. But it is above the bog-standard here where the berries are harvested green and the beans broken into three, four, five before drying and roasting.
I also remember very well a World Bank or African Development Bank project to restore our top state-owned coffee plantation with a foreign variety that did not need shade forest – an enormous amount of shade-cover was cleared, the coffee was planted … and it failed dismally. Now this plantation has hectares of useless tree-less land.
Again C. uses the original coffee varieties he found here.
C. is one of the very very few producers of coffee and chocolate in the world, perhaps the only one, who goes from the seed to the finished product. Most chocolatiers buy their cacao from plantations where they cannot control the quality of the growing, the harvesting and the post-harvesting fermentation and drying. Same with the coffee manufacturers.
Now, both C.’s chocolate and coffee are available at select outlets in the USA and Europe. And don’t get fobbed off by cheap chocolate and coffee from our country in supermarkets in the U.K, made from supposed organic cacao by a French manufacturer. I noticed a trend in UK supermarkets and chocolate/coffee outlets for single-country products – that does not necessarily mean better. “Oooh that’s pure organic Tanzanian coffee” – is not a guarantee of quality.
C.’s chocolate and coffee are not cheap. But …his chocolate is superb, his coffee excels.
The chocolate varies in price from €46 per kilo (a soft dark chocolate) to €77 per kilo (a chocolate infused in distilled cacao pulp spirit). In between is chocolate with sugar crystals, ginger etc. Available in 100 g. packages (i.e. €4.6-7.7).
The coffee is €52 per kilo available in 250 g packages (i.e. €13.0)
Perhaps, the most interesting product is three different varieties of coffee bean coated in chocolate – each variety of coffee interacts with the chocolate on the taste-buds in a different way. €60 per kilo available in 50 g. packages.
If you are interested, then please email me.
If you want some links (to back me up!), again contact me.