Many of our avid foodies will know chocolate is made from cocoa, but how many of you know it’s a tropical fruit grown within 100 miles of Cairns?
Research shows the fruit (which comes in the form of a pod) only grows in tropical climates within 18 degrees of the equator, placing our coastal farmers in one of the world’s prime growing locations. Over the last 10 years a number of farmers from Mossman and now Mission Beach areas have introduced the Theobroma (meaning ‘food of the gods’) Cocoa trees to their farms.
Some better-known growers are the Puglisi and Goodman families from the Mossman area close to the world heritage listed Daintree Rainforest. With the Puglisi’s farm being within metres of the pristine heritage listed rainforest, the soil and climate produce some of the most aromatic and fruity flavoured cocoa in the world.
Over the last few years, they have also introduced an on farm tour (Sweet Farm Tours), Australia’s first cocoa and sugarcane experience to demonstrate what goes into their all-Australian chocolate brand Daintree Estates, but growing is only part of the story.
Creating chocolate involves splitting each individual cocoa pod to access the seeds. These seeds or beans go through a fermentation process to bring out their full body and richness, and to remove the tannins and other compounds detracting from the final flavour.
Following fermentation beans are dried, husked and roasted to form cocoa nibs. This part art and part science range of techniques all occur before grinding the nibs to make chocolate or separating them out to form other products.
Within 100 miles of Cairns, there are a small number of cocoa growers. Two of which have formed companies and become well known locally and internationally (for value adding and producing their own chocolate).
The largest and original of these is Daintree Estates which has a range of milk, dark and specialty chocolate available.
Another innovative chocolate company is ‘Charley’s Chocolate Factory’ at Mission Beach. Like Daintree Estates, Charley’s chocolate is an award winner (Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards) and has a range of milk, dark and specialty chocolates.
Charley’s has recently re-established an on-farm tour, which is Australia’s only cocoa tree to chocolate bar experience. Tours run on certain days only so see their website for details… Charley’s Chocolate Factory Tours.
With world cocoa shortages having been touted over the last few years due to poor plantation management practices and borer insect issues in some developing countries, it’s great to know we have a local alternative.
Both companies are worth a look.