The Versatility of Chocolate

Have you ever heard of chocolate soap? Or chocolate candles or tea? These artisanal creations are revolutionizing the world of cacao.

These products and others are made by the Slow Food Chontalpa Cacao Presidium. Members of the Presidium celebrated Terra Madre Day with diverse activities, including participating for the first time ever in the Mercado El Cien (Market of One Hundred). Located in the Río de Janeiro Plaza in Mexico City, the market features organic products from the region.

“The market only accepts products produced at maximum 100 miles away; that is why it’s called the One Hundred Market. We sell artisanally produced chocolate, toasted cacao beans…basically everything that cacao gives us. For us, it is very important to establish a bridge with the consumer. We want to share information about sustainable farming,” said Alma Rosa Garces Medina, the event organizer.

Climate change and plant disease are some of the challenges that cacao producers in Chontalpa Tabasco face.

“Cacao was first exported from Tabasco to the world. Climate change has resulted in stronger ‘sures,’ hot winds that blow the flowers off the cacao trees. Without a flower there is no fruit, no fruit means no cacao,” Garces Medina explained.

Global warming has increased heat and humidity, which results in extreme rapid growth of cacao trees. But faster growing trees pose a big problem to farmers. “Once upon a time, farmers worked for 8 or 9 months out of the year, now they only work for 3 or 4 months,” said Garces Medina.

It comes as no surprise that many farmers have abandoned the production of cacao. But Garces Medina has a message for them: “We should not abandon cacao. Cacao is not just a tree; it provides us with dried fruits, vanilla, cinnamon, chilies…and much more. With these products we can make teas, marmalades and many more things.”

These factors were on the agenda yesterday at a meeting held at the farm of Rosario Lázaro López in Cárdenas. Forty producers pondered how to overcome challenges in the production of cacao and keep their industry alive.

Garces Medina said she hopes that all of the activities held to celebrate Terra Madre Day inspire farmers and producers to look beyond just making chocolate out of the cacao bean.“We do different things to keep producers from getting discouraged. We used our creativity to come up with chocolate soaps, lotions and candles. They are cute and make great Christmas presents.”

One of the most recent Presidium creations was chocolate tea, which is made from crushed roasted cacao bean. “That way you maintain the aroma but none of the fat,” Garces Medina explained.

Garces Medina said her biggest wish is to preserve the tradition of cacao in her Presidium. “Chocolate has always held our hand along the way. We will do everything possible to ensure its sustainable production.”

Chocolate from the Slow Food Presidium of Chontalpa Tabasco is well known around the world, especially in Europe.

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