Interestingly, it was this part of Cuba that became the centre of cacao production due to this being the landing place of the French from Haiti in 1668 who planted cacao trees to serve their own needs. Whether it was a strange quirk of fate, or agricultural awareness, but the ecology and climatic conditions of the land in that area were great for the production of cacao. There is an issue with this account, however. Some argue that cacao actually was first cultivated in Cuba a few years earlier around the town of Cabaiguán in central Cuba after the Spanish visit from Mexico. However, by the 19th century there was a fairly large scale production of cacao with the existence of 60 cocoa plantations according to the 1827 census and by 1891 they were exporting around 314,000 pesos worth of cacao at which point it was known for its excellent quality in Barcelona – a ‘gold medal’ in fact being awarded to the cacao plantation owner Castulo Ferrer.
During the Independence Wars cocoa production ground to a halt and had a devastating effect awards as virtually all the plantations and production facilities were destroyed by insurgents.
After the revolution two cacao factories were put under state control, although in 1963 a new factory in Baracoa was established which even today produces a good range of single origin dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate ice cream, cacao powder and cacao butter.
Economic liberalisation has meant that a good number of cacao farms are now owned by small-scale farmers, although there is still heavy state involvement.
The issue today is that a great deal of the local farmers find it much more profitable to raise livestock than produce cacao which appears more labour intensive. The Cuban Food Ministry has sought to change this. Back in 2008 the Minister For Food Mr Alejandro Roca Iglesias asked Ghana to send beans and students over to help with training at their new cocoa educational facility.
Something you might also not know was that the “great” Hershey company bought up some mills in Cuba during the first World War to bill sugar to supply the product to allow him to produce milk chocolate.
If you are able to visit Baracoa ask for the Sendero Sociocultural del Cacao which is the Socio-Cultural Chocolate Trail which looks very good if you’re interested in chocolate.
Cuba Chocolate Reviews:
I’ve got the Chapon Cuba bar to review shortly. I’ll also try and get some of the Pralus when I’ve worked through the rest of my supply.