Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 8th 2018 Contents 6 UWI TODAY -- SUNDAY 8 APRIL, 2018
SWEET HANDS AT COCOA RESEARCH CENTRE
she needed for her rst role at the CRC: eld work. "A lot
of our labs weren't really in the lab doing experiments, but
rather out in the eld. I was in the Northern Range a lot ...
and a lot of the forested areas that are really untouched ... it
was fantastic." So, when she was o ered her rst role at CRC,
in its Pathology department, doing plant pathology work at
the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad (ICG,T) -- a
living gene bank, she says, with one hundred hectares of
land housing fully grown cocoa trees -- she was ready. She
then moved to the Molecular department, where she "would
have been extracting cocoa DNA from di erent parts [of the
plant] ... verifying exactly what kind of trees we have in the
gene bank so that we can be sure of the variety." Saila has now
worked in each department; Food Tech completing the list.
"I came into Food Tech with this broad cocoa knowledge.
It was super helpful."
As a part of the section's IMPACT (Improving
Marketability and Production of Artisanal Cocoa in
Trinidad) project, Saila also ferments and dries beans to
show farmers how they can increase their beans' avour
potential. is helps cocoa farmers "move further along
the value added chain and so get more money for their
beans," she advises, because rather than selling the "wet
beans" straight from the cocoa pod, farmers can ferment
and dry them. ey can then sell their roast-ready beans
To provide farmers with a proper understanding of their
bean's potential a er optimal fermentation and drying, Saila
then puts the dried beans through the quality assessment
process. A er conducting the physical tests, she grinds the
beans into liquor. " en we sit as a team and we taste," she
says. is is how they determine the avour pro le of each
Liquor-making and tasting is a part of each of the
Tucked neatly in a corner of UWI's St. Augustine Campus,
the Cocoa Research Centre is a well-hidden treasure. is is
the home of everything cocoa and chocolate, from the elds
to the workshop. Among the Centre's various specialty areas
is the Food Technology section, the engineers of Fridays at
CRC -- a weekly meet, greet, ll-your-belly and warm-your-
soul event, where you can taste their wares, made in-house
from Trinidad's ne avour Trinitario cocoa beans, learn
about their work, and about the potential that lies in our
A small team, the Food Technology section's scope
is far-reaching. Counting Research Assistants, Saila
Ramkissoon, Kersha Guevara-Jackson and Kerry Ann
Deo, all former UWI students, among its members, the
section's knowledge base spans the cocoa industry, from the
plant's gra ing stage to the end product. is ensures that
the team is well-equipped to assist Trinidad and Tobago's
cocoa farmers and chocolatiers develop their skills and
e section, called "Food Tech" by its members, looks
at the cocoa industry from the bean to the production
of chocolate. One of its services is to provide quality
assessments of cocoa beans.
"We do quality reports for different cocoa farms
around Trinidad," says Saila. "People give us a sample of
their fermented and dried cocoa beans and then we do
our analyses on it and give them a written report" of the
beans' physical assessment, their good and bad attributes,
their flavour profile, as well as recommendations for
improvement. We are like a certi cation body for quality,"
Saila began working at the CRC a er she graduated
in 2014. A double major in Environmental and Natural
Resource Management and Biology gave her the experience
Food Tech team's research assistants' portfolios. Saila's clear,
however, "we taste liquor, not chocolate," in other words,
they taste the pure cocoa.
"Liquor is just the cocoa nibs ground into a paste ...
It'll be super bitter," says Kerry Ann, adding that, knowing
"bitterness is your baseline, you can detect other avours"
in the bean.
It's a skill that they've all been trained in by the Head
of the Food Tech section, and Trinidad's very own sensory
master, Dr. Darin Sukha. While anyone can simply taste the
liquor, the team needs to be able to "ignore the bitterness ...
delve deeper and si " through the di erent avours, identify
and record them, she says. And precision is key.
From the broader fruity, oral, vegetative and nutty
characteristics, they si down to the speci c fruit, and can
tell a farmer if his cocoa beans taste like mandarin, passion
fruit, bananas or even coconut, which is important, since
this liquor becomes chocolate. Trinidad's chocolate, they
all con rm, has a distinctive raisin avour -- called a brown
fruit avour -- in the cocoa and chocolate world.
Kerry Ann says that their avour identi cation work
helps farmers to know what their beans would taste like as
a chocolate. Farmers sometimes don't understand that the
avour of their beans impacts the avour of the chocolate
they will turn into, so "whenever you're not getting through
to someone, you make chocolate," she says. Once the farmers
can taste and compare their beans' chocolate, to others, they
understand "how beautiful their beans are or how much
work they have to do," Kerry Ann explains.
e CRC's chief chocolatier, as Saila calls her, Kerry
Ann's work lies primarily in making chocolate. With a
nutrition and dietetics background, and a passion for
product development, this role suits her. "I knew I wanted
to do something, but I didn't know what it was called," she
Crossing to the Dark Side
e bitter sweet life of chocolatiers
BY SERAH ACHAM
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