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Let’s Talk About Chocolate

Let’s Talk About Chocolate

Before I left Musanze, I dropped by Migano Hotel for lunch. While grabbing some chicken wings, I saw well packaged and branded chocolate bars at the counter.

I picked three flavors: Dark Chocolate Pili Pili, White Chocolate Lemongrass and Milk Chocolate Ginger. My nosy-self was quick to notice that the products I had purchased were made in Musanze by a company called Caractère Patifi.

How is chocolate produced? I wondered. With help from Google, I tried to learn one or two things about the process of producing chocolate. While perusing through the material I found online, I came across the words cacao and cocoa quite often. If I remember correctly, cacao are seeds contained in oval pods that grow on the trunks of some tropical trees. Don’t quote me. I am still trying to complete the puzzle.

An oval pod-bearing tree is grown. Seeds are germinated inside the pod. The raw seeds are known as cacao, from which cocoa is processed. Did I get that right? What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa? Do cocoa and cocoa bean mean the same thing? At this point, I am a little confused. By the way, I still don’t know how to pronounce cacao and cocoa.

It has been weeks since I bought the said chocolate bars in Musanze. I had forgotten to give them to the kids as initially planned. The same kids who would have taught me how to pronounce cacao and cocoa. The gifts are still in my bike’s panniers. I am not sure if they are still fit for consumption. Maybe, I will have to buy fresh ones when I return to Musanze.

Earlier today, I saw a copy of a 2015 African Business magazine gathering dust on top of my bookshelf. Its cover page is embellished with a creative piece of work depicting a combination of pleasure and pain, triumph and failure in the chocolate industry. I know, this is confusing. I started getting confused the moment I tried to figure out the relationship between the tree, the seeds, the fruit and the final product.

The cover story of the dust-gathering, 2015 magazine is titled Bittersweet Success: Will Africa Profit From the Global Chocolate Crisis? The article painted a picture of the scramble for cocoa when the chocolate demand began to outpace its supply.

According to Make Chocolate Fair, a watchdog pushing for the elimination of foul play in the supply chain, 70% of the world’s cocoa come from West Africa, with Ivory Coast and Ghana producing more than half of the global supply. The chocolate industry is valued at more than USD 130 billion but, judging from my pedestrian literature review, all is not well.

I would like to learn something about chocolate production in Rwanda and the state of the market. I already know the destination of my first chocolate study tour — the workshop run by Caractère Patifi in Musanze.

The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Musanze is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, The Peakspot Lodge, My Hill Ecolodge, Volcanoes Residence, Migano Hotel, Kingfisher Journeys, Ndaza Escape, Crema Cafe and Beyond the Gorillas Experiences (BGE).

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