Divine at the chocolate factory in the snow

8 December 2010

The Divine chocolate factory offices in winter

Four of us (Sophi, Sonja, Tom and Sarah) from Divine made our way through the snow across Europe to visit the factory that makes Divine chocolate in Germany. The trains, tubes, planes and cars all worked remarkably well.

On our arrival our host enthusiastically took us to a German Christmas market. Lots of Weihnachtsstandl and bright lights. We had mugs of hot Glühwein which warmed us for a moment, but soon the cold triumphed and we went for dinner. Lots of yummy food and frothy beer. A world away from Ghana where the cocoa comes from.

We began early the next morning with a tour around the factory, 50km of pipes running around the building linking tanks to conching machines, finally being deposited through nozzles into moulds that go through chillers, get knocked out and then wrapped and boxed. They have a new warehouse 15metres high with very tall forklifts to reach the upper shelves.

We visited the New Product Development lab and met Uta who showed us how she makes prototype bars. It is very important to mix ingredients at different temperatures very well to ensure the perfect texture and no fissures in the bars. We left Tom in the lab to have a go at mixing chocolate while we went off to meet the team, and discuss the serious business of logistics, forecasting, contingency planning etc

Due to the inclement weather and the usual British surprise we had a container of chocolate locked in the port. Together we tried to solve the problem. The Germans couldn’t really understand why the UK had ground to a halt and why we don’t have winter tyres! We were pleased to show how many road and sea miles have been saved by shipping the chocolate direct to Hull where we warehouse the chocolate. They told us that the factory will convert to completely green energy by 2012. We have been using recycled card in all our products and we are exploring converting the wrappers too. They explained why this might be problematic.

We ended the day tasting some potential new chocolate bars, with fruity flavours and roasted cocoa nibs. Then we rushed off to the train to try and beat the weather. The next time we’ll be meeting up with the factory’s director will be at the Divine Board meeting at Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana.

The secret to the Divine cocoa flavour is in the fermentation and drying

7 December 2010

The latest blog from Swedish graduate Emilie Persson:

John, the Recorder, took me to his brother Lot’s farm which was just a short ride from Assin Akonfudi, along a dirt road. Then we walked about a kilometre into the forest. The landscape was varied, with cocoa farms, bamboo trees and small swampy areas, all looking very green and lush.

At Lot’s farm, there were already a group of people sitting around a large pile of colourful cocoa.  For the last few days all the cocoa pods that had been plucked from Lot’s trees had been carried in baskets to this collection point. Ready for the task of breaking open hundreds of cocoa pods (!) we started the work. The farmers were experts and opened the pods, took out the cocoa and threw away the empty pod at speed! 

Esi and her son

It was also impressive seeing how some of the women managed to work, while at the same time having their small children along with them. The children rested giggling in the shade on some banana leaves that had been covered with a blanket, while their mothers worked. Two of the women also had their smallest children on their backs.

Inside each pod the purple cocoa beans are covered in a sweet tasting white slimy pulp (a bit like lychees). All the fresh cocoa beans were collected in trays, which then were carried away to the fermentation place. The beans are piled on banana leaves that have been spread out on the ground, and the leaves are then wrapped over them to make a kind of tent. Here the beans will get hot and ferment for at least five days before they being carried back to Lot’s house where he will dry the beans on bamboo mats turning them regularly in the sun for seven days. 

Pouring the fresh beans on to the plantain leaves

Allowing the fermenting and drying to take up to two weeks is very important to get the high quality cocoa that Kuapa Kokoo is known for. John explains – “You cannot dry the cocoa without fermenting it, because it will remain purple and will become mouldy.” He continued by describing what negative impact that would have on the chocolate. – “If you do not ferment the beans you would need more sugar when you produce the chocolate, to get a good flavour.” The hard work and passion of the Kuapa farmers is a crucial reason to why Divine chocolate tastes so divine!

Harvesting cocoa for Divine Chocolate

1 December 2010

The fourth post from Emilie Persson in Assin Akonfudi: 

John Dornu arrives at his farm

John Dornu is the Recorder in Akonfudi – the person elected to be in charge of collecting the cocoa from the Kuapa farmers. He’s been a member of Kuapa Kokoo since 2008. He is thirty-three years old and lives with his wife Doris and their stepdaughter. John has a big farm of thirty-six acres, which his father bought already in 1964, and in 1969 he planted cocoa on it.

Last week I was able to join him to see the first step of harvesting his cocoa. We started off in the village and walked for almost an hour before we reached the farm. The landscape was green and we walked along paths between other farms, where orange, lemon, cassava, cocoa, oil palm, corn and garden vegetables where grown.

When we got there, I was exhausted because of the long walk in the sun – this is a walk John does several times a week. John usually goes to the farm at 7:30 am and comes back around 3:30 pm. When the working days are long, he has to cook his meals on the farm. The first and last thing he does is to say a short prayer, thanking God for allowing him to reach the farm safely and to help him to do a good job. John works at his farm at least three times a week, but never on Fridays, which traditional are a ‘taboo day’ to work on the farm.

John with his cocoa pods

John Dornu harvesting his cocoa

John explains that on his farm he has four varieties of cocoa. They all look different and the colour and size varies from long purple, to round and yellow to oval and orange. It is really a wonderful sight to see the cocoa growing from the trees. The four varieties are Tetteh Quarshie (the name of the man who first brought cocoa to Ghana) and the newer sorts that are called Hybrid, Amizona and Asotem. John says that the flavour does not vary between the four varieties, but that Hybrid, for example, grows faster and gives fruit already after two years, compared to the Tetteh Quarshie cocoa that needs almost ten years before you can harvest the cocoa.

When we reach the cocoa farm, John starts using the machete (a long metal knife) and a long stick with a hook in the end to cut down the cocoa pod from the trees. The cocoa pods grow directly from the stem of the tree or hangs from the branches.

John crossing the water

Next John opens the cocoa pods, takes out the cocoa beans and ferments the cocoa for at least five days, before it can be dried in the sun. When we walk back to Akonfudi, we take a shortcut, but because it has been raining last night the road is flooded and we need to walk through knee-deep water for some hundreds of metres. Children going to school, farmers attending to their farms and everybody else living just outside the village use the road. Not only do the cocoa farmers have to walk far distances to reach their farms, but they also have to carry heavy loads on their head when bringing the fermented cocoa back to their house to dry it, and also have to walk in water or along poor roads.

It is not easy to be a cocoa farmer, yet people do it with pride.