Cacao Ambassador Oonagh Browne has been working with Pacific countries such as Fiji and the Solomon Islands on cultivating cacao, but says it’s incredible how only one country really uses it in their cultural eating habits.
“Samoa’s very rare in the countries around the world in that it grows cacao and actually consumes it. They’re very famous for their Koko Samoa.
“So it’s a very great passion of mine for the farmers who grow cacao to learn how they can actually make their own chocolate and drinking chocolate at home in their own village, so they can enjoy their crop.”
She says the taste of cacao beans grown in the Pacific is one of a kind.
“It’s a very beautiful, floral and unique flavour profile. It’s very different to what comes out of Central and South America, and very different again from Africa."
Browne says this comes down to the smallness of the islands and the size of the farms, and comparing the flavour variations to wine tasting.
“It’s so different, by farm, by village, it’s extraordinary. That beautiful bean has over 200 tasting notes, so it’s far more complex than wine.
“Every slight change, in the closeness to the ocean, the soil and what grows around it, it’s all absorbed and told in that bean."
Browne has been asked to be a judge at New Zealand’s first ever Pacific Cacao & Chocolate expo, and hopes it will be a game changer for the industry, providing opportunities for ethical farming and agri-tourism.
“The Pacific is a real jewel in the world of cacao, that’s still not actually known around the world, and that’s why this show is so important to put the Pacific on the world map for the calibre of the cacao that grows in the islands.”
The top competition entries will have their beans crafted into 70% chocolate bars by the Raglan Chocolate Company, and winners of the farmers' category will have their beans sent to the Cocoa of Excellence Competition in Paris.
She says pre-selection is already underway in Samoa, working up to a Pacific Cup event.
“It’s a fabulous opportunity to start right from the roots in Samoa, right through all the way to Paris.”
The Pacific Cacao & Chocolate expo kicks off on the 23rd July at Mt Smart Stadium.
Samoan women peeling fire-roasted cacao beans for Koko Samoa. Photo / @mssunshinefarms