2017 marked the second year that we were invited to Judge the cacao contest at the Solomon Islands Chocolate Week. On our first trip, we were hoping to find out if there is any potential for great cacao being grown there, this year we were hoping to see consistency. It’s one thing to be able to produce great cacao once but to be able to do it year after year is another.
Last year we were able to spend a week in the very remote Western Provinces working with local cacao farmers to improve all aspects of their production. We covered topics ranging from proper harvest techniques, to fermentation and drying. They were eager to learn and put into practice the things we talked about. We even were able to show them how to make simple drinking chocolate from the cacao they grow (before this, they have never even tasted their processed cacao). We were hosted by a young farmer named Kenny Patovaki on his small island of Paspaskato. Six months later, we received a sample of cacao that Kenny had grown, fermented, and dried. It was really fantastic, he had been working on all aspects of his production to improve quality. Kenny entered his cacao in the contest this year and went on to win top prize! We were so proud of him and his ability to consistently produce to a very high standard. Yet again, we brought a small ammount home with us for a second exclusive release of the winning cacao from the Solomon Island Chocolate Week.
We see a bond forming between us and the Solomon Islands. After visiting and exploring for a second year, we realize that this pioneering effort will still be lots of work, but the people and the cacao make it all worth it. With the help of other chocolate makers, as well as development organizations working in the Solomon’s, I feel confident we will be able to put this unique island nation on the map as a source of fine flavor grade cacao.