THERE are few comfort foods quite like a hot cup of cocoa on a rainy day. We have the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations to thank for that.
Thousands of years ago, the Aztecs learned the value of the cacao beans from the Mayans who considered it the fruit of the gods. They removed the beans from the pod, fermented them, laid them out to dry and then the beans were grounded into a paste. Water and chilli pepper were added and the result was a bitter tasting cocoa drink.
Cocoa tea has outlasted the very civilisations that first introduced it, and over the centuries it has evolved to include a variety of flavours to satisfy different palates.
Trinidad’s very own award-winning chocolate maker Cocoa Republic is also evolving. The company has enjoyed success with its gourmet chocolate bars made with 100 per cent Trinitario cocoa. This month Cocoa Republic will release a line of organic cocoa powders in a variety of flavours including ‘Original’, ‘Marshmallow’, Malted Medley’ and ‘Calypso Spice’ for the ultimate cup of hot Caribbean chocolate. In an interview with the Kitcharee, Cocoa Republic’s CEO Chris Boodoosingh describes the premise behind each flavour.
“The Original is a classic and makes the perfect cup of hot chocolate. The Marshmallow was designed for kids and was a personal request made by my daughter. A cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows is honestly a perfect treat for kids, especially during these rainy nights,” says Boodoosingh. “Our Malted Medley is a gourmet version of Milo but with Trinitario cocoa powder. And the Calypso Spice is my personal favourite. This is a new creation made with various spices and designed to embody the essence and spirit of the Caribbean. We believe this flavour will be a hit both in Trinidad and globally, it is 100 per cent vegan.”
Cocoa Republic’s handcrafted Trinitario chocolate has already made a splash on international markets; it took home three awards in 2018. And last year the company became the first local business to be given the exclusive rights to be the sole provider of chocolates to Regalis Foods which directly imports exotic foods from 40 countries and works with Michelin-starred restaurants. Two weeks ago Regalis expanded Cocoa Republic’s chocolate offering to their Chicago office.
“It’s only a matter of time before Trinidadian chocolate is a staple in the cuisine of Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide, and it all started with the exposure that was given to us via Regalis,” says Boodoosingh.
Chocolate as a category may have seen a rise in sales during the pandemic, however luxury/gourmet food has seen a slight reduction in demand as consumers try to save money in this uncertain time, says Boodoosingh. So Cocoa Republic’s approach has been to innovate their way into new markets and categories.
The company has been focusing on export which has yielded good results thus far. Almost 60 per cent of their revenue for July 2020 was exported, and they expect that number to increase to over 90 per cent by December. The Covid-19 crisis has also helped to make the Cocoa Republic team more lean and consolidated, explained Boodoosingh.
“Less is more and now that our team has shrunk in size we are more efficient, agile and effective than ever before,” he says.
Fans of Cocoa Republic can expect the local brand to launch new products over the next six months. Cocoa Republic’s cocoa powders will be available in supermarkets nationwide.