Bougainville cocoa sets sail for Wellington Chocolate Factory
The first batch of high-grade Bougainville cocoa beans is about to set sail on the first leg of its journey to become the world's first Bougainville chocolate bar.
The first batch of high grade Bougainville cocoa beans is about to set sail on the first leg of its journey to becoming the world's first Bougainville chocolate bar.
One tonne of the delicious beans are being loaded onboard the traditional Fijian owned vaka moana "Uto Ni Yalo" as it prepares to depart Tinputz in Bougainville.
Onboard the vessel are Wellington Chocolate Factory Co-founders Gabe Davidson and Rochelle Harrison, who are very excited about their precious cargo.
Ms Harrison told Koroi Hawkins she hopes this maiden voyage marks the start of a new era for Bougainville cocoa farmers.
ROCHELLE HARRISON: The beans are fantastic, they've all been dried out on the new drier that we helped James rebuild, so they're looking very nice, not too smokey at all, very sweet tasting. We had to put them into 30kg sacks to get them on to the boat, so they're all in lovely little sacks, all branded up nicely. We can't wait to get back to the chocolate factory and make some chocolate.
KOROI HAWKINS: Where is this going, what are the prospects of this? What are you doing with the beans that you're bringing?
RH: What we're trying to do is hopefully put, well, there is a lot of cocoa farmers here in Bougainville, it's very sort of high quality tasting chocolate and we are hoping to put an enlightenment on Bougainville and the cocoa industry and hoping for the future that it will open up more opportunities for other chocolate makers as well and give the farmers more of a value for their cacao.
KH: What's the reception been like locally with you guys being there?
RH: It's been great. We've had so many people come and visit us and greet us, we've been overwhelmed with people here. The locals in Tinputz, up at Ursula's and James Ruatana's place have all been very welcoming and feeding us and looking after us and any problems we've had they've been helping us with, it's all been very good.
KH: So how much longer left in your journey now, as you prepare to set sail?
RH: We've probably got about three weeks to four weeks left to sail back now so we will be stopping off at Vanuatu on our way and then we'll sail straight to New Zealand.
KH: And the final product, what is it going to be?
RH: So we're going to do a single origin chocolate bar, so different beans from different countries or different plantations taste quite differently. Like the single origin coffee you also have single origin chocolate so we'd like to sort of pinpoint some different flavours within the South Pacific. The test batches that we have done with James' beans have been very rum-raisiny sort of tasting chocolate so it'll be a single origin bar.
KH: You mentioned hoping for long-term prospects for Bougainville, is this something that you would be looking at going into?
RH: Oh of course. We would love to come back, we have to come back and get more cocoa beans. We've put a lot of time and effort into this so we can build a future here and work with cocoa farmers here. The future is looking bright here, there's a lot of people looking after their cocoa farms and growing cocoa, we've seen a lot of cocoa farmers here when we've been here and more keep coming. There's a lot of cacao here.
Rochelle Harrison says the voyage on the traditional vaka will take three to four weeks with a single stop in Vanuatu on the way to Wellington.
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