David Greenwood-Haigh FIH, owner and chocolatier at Coeur de Xocolat in Wakefield, Yorkshire, recently returned from Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries and a small exporter of fine cocoa.
The trip, supported by a UK government grant, enabled David to understand more about the connection Britain has had with chocolate-growing regions since the 18th century.
The UK chocolate industry is facing some tough times with sugar and health being high on the government’s and consumers’ agendas. Producers are looking for new ways to inspire and educate chocolate shoppers with provenance and tradition becoming more prominent trends in the market.
When asked about the project, David said: “During the 18th century, Yorkshire began building its economy and trade around the confectionery industry and especially chocolate. Over the next few hundred years, and right up to the modern day, chocolate production has flourished and Yorkshire is steeped in a rich chocolate heritage. It is important to me that we work to keep this heritage alive as well as developing our links with the people who grow our food. As a chocolate-consuming nation we now want to know about where our chocolate comes from and we want to know the stories behind our food. I’m really excited to meet some of the guys making it happen out in Haiti.”
David visited the Pisa growing plantations in Cap Haitien, as well as Haiti’s only bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Askanya, to discover their production process. He also visited hospitals and schools.
Back at home, David reflected on his trip: “When I was asked to go to Haiti earlier this year, I thought it would be difficult to find real opportunities within hospitality in a third world country that is still recovering from the earthquake in 2010 and more recently the hurricane in 2016. How wrong I was. Cap Haitien has a thriving growing hotel base to complement the resorts that the large cruise ships dock in. The next step is to try and tempt the cruise guests off the boat and into the local villages to spend their dollars.
I was asked to help a couple of cocoa producers to establish cocoa tourism, showing visitors how chocolate is made from bean-to-bar and then hopefully sell them some chocolate to take back on board with them. And I was also asked to get involved with a sustainable seafood project. More about that next time.
I am already formulating my plans to go back before the winter to train some more Haitians to set up bean-to-bar chocolate operations and then to help them market the ecotourism with the cruise lines.”