Click here to print page

One One Cacao keeps its eye on filling basket

Observer writer

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Several years ago Nick Davis, a BBC correspondent in Jamaica, born in England to Jamaican parents, was considering ideas for a new business venture which he wanted to start in Jamaica. Davis had already made up his mind that he wanted to go into the export business and that he wanted to find a “unique, Jamaican, high-quality, historical, exportable product”.

He held tightly to that vision which led him to what is today called One One Cacao, his award-winning brand of locally produced craft chocolate sold locally and overseas.

The idea to enter the chocolate business originated while Davis was in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2013 and discovered chocolate that had been produced by the Grenada Chocolate Company from the spice isle of Grenada in the Caribbean.

The chocolate, which was being lauded in the UK for its quality, was a collaborative venture between an American, Mott Green, and small farmers in Grenada. Davis interviewed Green and expressed to him that he would love to do something similar in Jamaica, and the American, who had become a chocolate making legend in Grenada, encouraged him to take the entrepreneurial leap.

Jamaican cocoa is considered to be “fine-flavour” cocoa and is exported to European countries including France, Belgium and Italy where it is used by producers to make premium chocolate products. The renowned Valhrona chocolate company established in 1922 in Tain L'Hermitage, France is one such producer that utilises Jamaican cocoa for its high end chocolates.

Davis believed that based on the reputation of the cocoa grown on the island, Jamaica was more than ready to start building a new “tree to bar (cocoa tree to chocolate bar)” artisanal chocolate industry.

“Jamaican cocoa is one of the best in the world,” he declares. “When we have a natural advantage such as this it is like an open goal.”

Davis returned to Jamaica in 2015 and began experimenting with making chocolate. He acquainted himself with chocolate makers from around the world to learn from them and he started developing strong relationships with local cocoa farmers. In 2016 he founded his company, Temper Tantrum Ltd. to produce his chocolate brand, One One Cacao.

The brand name was inspired by the popular Jamaican saying, “one one cocoa full basket” which means success can be achieved one step at a time. The words cacao and cocoa tend to be used interchangeably in the marketing of chocolate but there is actually a difference between the two terms related to how the beans are processed. The word “temper” in “Temper Tantrum Ltd.” refers to the process of tempering chocolate to make it smooth and glossy.

One One Cacao's first major achievement came in 2017 when Davis successfully applied to the Academy Of Chocolate in England to enter the brand's chocolate bars in the annual Academy Of Chocolate Awards competition. Davis was stunned by the results. One One Cacao emerged ahead of a number of well-established chocolate companies included in the nearly 1000 entrants from 35 countries around the world.

The brand earned a silver award for the 68% Mahogany Hall Bar and a bronze for its 71% Mahogany Hall Bar. The percentage refers to the amount of cocoa content in the bar and the awards were won in the competition's Tree to Bar category.

This international recognition of One One Cacao put a stamp of respect on the chocolate, which has assisted Davis in marketing his products to local coffee shops, specialty stores, and upscale boutique hotels across the island such as Toyota Cafe and Things Jamaica — and they will soon also be available at Cannonball Cafe, Craft Cottage and The Butcher Block. They are also distributed to a number of upscale boutique hotels across the island. Customers can also order directly from the company and from its website.

The brand is not sold in supermarkets. This decision was made because natural, dark chocolates tend to be appreciated by eclectic buyers who have a taste for the product. Customers who purchase the chocolates commonly sold in Jamaican stores may find the taste of craft chocolate to be very different from what they are accustomed to, and in marketing terms this can create challenges related to expectations.

The price point of the One One Cacao brand is also significantly higher than most chocolates found in local stores because of the artisanal work involved in its production and the cost of the beans.

Davis wants to go beyond just the making and selling of chocolate, however. He believes that Jamaican cocoa is of such high quality that farmers and producers can create an experiential tourism product that exposes what he calls “cocoa country”. He makes the comparison with “wine country” in wine-producing nations, where people travel to particular regions to experience the different tastes of various wines and observe the production process. Here in Jamaica tourists could learn about the whole “tree to bar” process that goes into creating a chocolate bar from cocoa beans.

“We want to travel the world with our cocoa,” Davis insists enthusiastically. “There is no reason why Jamaica can't be known for its cocoa as well as its coffee. The future has to be constant innovation. We want to work with stakeholders to ensure that despite challenges to the industry, cocoa can be a game changer.”

The fact that One One Cacao is now available in a number of hotels is the first step in using it to create a broader experience, Davis believes.

“Hotels are now looking to show how they support local business,” he explains. “We're now working with more and more hotel groups and coffee shops who want to highlight high end Jamaican food. It's a way for them to show off the island. We're proud that we can do that with our award-winning chocolate.”

One One Cacao is produced by a tiny microenterprise and currently has one full-time staff member (Davis) and two part-time employees operating from a small custom-built facility in Boscobel, St Mary. The small factory has a humidity controlled area for storing beans, state of the art fluid-bed roasters and equipment for refining cocoa into chocolate. It can produce up to 2500 bars per week.

Here, Davis, is already realising his ambition of creating an experiential tourism product. One One Cacao is sold as an experience through Airbnb and the company hosts visitors who come to the facility to learn about the production process and taste the chocolate bars in the place where they are manufactured. Food writers from the United States have also toured the site.

Davis reveals that at least five new local chocolate companies have come into being since 2012 and this could help to grow the industry as a tourism product. He feels that cocoa production is already big enough to be used as a tourism attraction, noting that Jamaica produces 200 to 300 tons of cocoa a year for export to high-quality producers. He points to other countries as examples of how Jamaica should be exposing this growing economic sector.

“Grenada has a chocolate festival,” he notes. “How many times bigger are we? We have a wide variety of cocoa with so many different flavours. Factors such as the geographical area, rainfall, sunlight and shade have a huge impact on the final flavour of the product. Cocoa from Hanover tastes different from cocoa from St Mary. We have a lot to offer.”

Despite being gung-ho about cocoa farming and chocolate production in the island Davis believes the challenges the industry faces need to be addressed in order for it to make lucrative gains.

“Over a decade ago the government was given a document by leading experts on how to revitalise the sector, and those lessons haven't been taken on,” he laments. “Without urgent change the industry will be stillborn. There are more producers starting up but we need to ensure we have enough cocoa by addressing the disease, frosty pod, which affects the tree. Urgent attention is needed if the sector is to survive.”

In the meantime, Nick Davis would like to see more local and Caribbean hotels coming on board with One One Cacao and other artisanal chocolate makers. At the moment, the company has a distributor who has been selling the chocolate bars to buyers in the United States — Cocoa Runners, the largest chocolate subscription company in the United Kingdom, supplying purchasers with craft chocolate made by artisans from around the world, approached the company to purchase over 1000 chocolate bars.

“I am happy to grow in this way,” says the award-winning chocolate maker. “This is a very small business and in order to maintain the quality of its craft as it expands, successful growth is best achieved through small steps.”

One one cocoa full basket.