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The Chocolate Next Door – story of the Inaugural Pacific Cacao & Chocolate Show

“The show is a reminder and a confirmation that there are dedicated farmers, passionate chocolate makers, and loving families behind every Pacific origin chocolate bar we consume”.

The Pacific Islands are not the first place that comes to mind when we think of cacao, but it has been grown across the Pacific for more than 130 years and has been a crucial crop for generations of farming families. In Samoa, cacao was not only cultivated for export, but it became central to Samoan society, an integral part of its food culture. This is very rare, as most countries that cultivate Cacao only do so for export (to make chocolate). Samoa holds a unique place as a cacao-growing country, incorporating it into the local cuisine most famously Koko Samoa (Samoan Chocolate).

The Pacific Cacao & Chocolate 22 Show was the first Pacific event dedicated to the evolution of cacao: from commodity and family affair to luxurious branding and world-class flavor profiling. Our goal was to stimulate new markets, niches, and educational and research opportunities within the world of Cacao in Aotearoa New Zealand – and we did it! Slow Food Auckland was a supporter and sponsor of this important event.  

At the heart of the show was the farmer – increasing their prosperity and improving livelihoods in the Pacific. Making sure the people who grow the cacao get a fair return and partnering with them to enhance the quality and value of what they grow. 

Watch the video of the show here

A ground-breaking show with heart and culture 

Visitors to the Pacific Cacao & Chocolate 2022 show got to taste and experience the chocolate-making process from beans to bar – using Fairtrade and some organically grown cacao from Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, and the Philippines.  

With something for everyone, this event brought interactive cacao workshops, LOTS of chocolate tastings, a dive into Pacific culture, and shared the small business stories from cacao growers and producers around the Pacific region with New Zealand consumers. 

The show had amazing reach across the Pacific with live stream and social media engaging eight Pacific communities in real time and webinars before and after the event sharing the stories and opportunities garnered by the show. Thank you to Pacific Farmers of PIFON, GM Kyle Stice, and Illeyah Draundalo for hosting and organizing our webinars. 

The inaugural Pacific Cacao & Chocolate Awards –gold medal standard. 

The inaugural Pacific Cacao & Chocolate Awards were key to the event – supporting the vision to put Pacific islands on the world map for growing premium quality, fine-flavor cacao for chocolate making. The judging panel was led by author, Pacific cacao, and chocolate marketing specialist Grant Vinning, who used the international standards set by Cocoa of Excellence in Paris to assess the competition entries and the quality of the beans shone through.  

Congratulations to our winners: Bean to bars for the Pacific Cup and Samoan Farmer’s awards were made by Raglan Chocolate

  1. 2022 The Pacific Cup Bean-to-Bar Award: GOLD – Fiji (samples sent in by Arif Khan of Cacao Fiji). The second equal for a SILVER was Bougainville and PNG. BRONZE went to the Solomon Islands 
  2. 2022 Samoan Farmers Award: SILVER – Suela and Tausala Cook, Saleimoa Village, Samoa 

(The Judges ruled that each farmer was deserving of a Silver by international standards as their scores were very close. None had reached the international GOLD standard and this award is designed to increase the standard by the next competition.) The winner won by .8 of a point. Each farmer received a Silver medal. 

  1. 2022 Producers’ Bean-to-Bar Award: GOLD – Foundry Chocolate with their Vanuatu bean to bar; SILVER – She Universe with PNG bean to bar; BRONZE was Foundry again with PNG bean to bar. 
  2. 2022 Youth Cacao Innovators Award: GOLD – Ngāiwi Kahukoka    
  3. 2022 Koko Samoa Hot Chocolate Award: GOLD – Fuatino Moli, Faleasiu Village, Samoa 
  4. 2022 Pacific Inspired Hot Chocolate Award: GOLD – She Universe, Christchurch 

SILVER – Cacao Infusion 

The craft chocolate maker with the mighty touch  

An enormous piece of work that can’t go unnoticed, was the commitment and contribution made by Mike Renfree and Simone Downey of Raglan Chocolate. A boutique craft chocolatier, food technologist, and environmentalist, Mike was more concerned with the impact he was making in the lives of Pacific farmers than the fact that their business was on-hold for months so they could make hundreds of chocolate bars for the show. 

Simone has a background in horticulture and is described by Mike as the person who “does everything else, while he just makes the chocolate.” Hundreds of voluntary hours of their time went into this project and now with the hope of some mutual returns with the bean-to-bar collaboration with the winner of the Samoan Farmer’s Award. 

The Pacific Cacao & Chocolate 2022 show was supported by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade New Zealand (MFAT) through a partnership program with SPS Biota NZ. The show was a collaboration between Ms. Sunshine Organic Farms Charitable Trust, Samoa, and Grow Asia Pacific Charitable Trust NZ. 

Introducing Ms. Sunshine Organic Farms Charitable Trust and Floris Nui  

Ms. Sunshine Organic Farms Charitable Trust provides a unique platform for women farmers and entrepreneurs wanting to contribute to a more holistic and regenerative approach to farming in Samoa and the Pacific.  

It brings like-minded female and male farmers together to participate in and support initiatives that empower and effect change in the way women are treated on the land, in village communities, and business. 

They also provide practical on-farm cacao training and cacao-agritourism mentorship. In addition to the Pacific Cacao & Chocolate 2022 show in NZ, the Trust’s recent work includes developing the first Samoan Women’s Farming Calendar 2022; authoring two practical guidebooks for organic Cocoa and Coconut growing and agritourism; the introduction of Koko Samoa and cacao value-adding to the Solomon Islands.  

Its current work is the research and development of Samoa’s very own framework for traditional farming practices and self-certification. 

Ms. Sunshine is a founding member of POETCom Women’s Chapter; a founding member of SKIA (Samoa Koko Industry Association); and a member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group in the Asia Pacific. The Trust’s founder Floris Niu is a co-creator of SWAG (Samoa Women’s Association of Growers), and she also owns the NZ company and chocolate brand KOKO BEANS.  

“Central to all of this is the farmland itself. It is a home and a place of work – producing limited edition tree-to-tummy products, an incubator for new ideas; an escape to a place of ancestral learning and reflection in the whimsical nature of all things Cacao”. Floris Niu  

 

Slow Food Auckland

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