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Ms Sunshine Farms and She Universe

Oonagh's Blog

Ms Sunshine Farms and She Universe

ALISTAIR VANT

A co-creative partnership bringing extraordinary Chocolate…

Journey through our Partner's farm, Ms. Sunshine Farms, Tuana'I, with Oonagh and Sarah.


Intro

Being with Sarah and Floris on the farm was a stunning experience. We disappeared into the tropics into Cacao and together discovered some wonderful new techniques, ideas and wisdom that revealed itself by just Being together amongst the trees. Truly amazing chocolate will come from this visit.

The Cacao Farm, The Chocolatier and the Cacao Queen all together merging and blending. The fruits will appear soon!!


April Harvest 2017

The farm is situated in the hills about 8 kilometers from the Ocean, on volcanic rock. A rich jungle of Cacao, banana, Taro, Papaya, Mango, Avocado, Turmeric, Ginger, Limes, coffee….


The Tree

An unassuming large leafed tree that when looked at for the first time doesn't immediately reveal that it is Cacao.

The leaves are long and start narrow at the stem and grow much wider at the tip.

This is mainly to provide a lot of shelter. Young trees have to be planted amongst trees of a different variety until they are about 5 years old. On Ms. Sunshine Farms they are planted amongst Coconut and breadfruit trees. Once they have reached maturity the support trees have to be removed or else it will become too moist for the Cacao trees. It does like perfect conditions of shade warmth moisture but not too much of any one thing!!


In Samoa there are three main varieties of Cacao

1) Criollio which is the rarest variety with only 3% of the world’s crops being Criollio.

This is a Criollo pod and the bean is pure white. The pod also contains only half the volume of beans another variety would have. It is difficult to grow and has less of the chocolate flavor and more of the complex subtitles that is in chocolate. It is considered the Prince of Cacao!

2) Trinitario, which is about 30% of the worlds crops. This is a more robust bean with low acidity and is a light purple colour. It is complex in flavour.

3) Forrestario this is the majority of mass grown cacao and in Samoan they call it Solomon Koko as it was introduced in the 80s from the Solomon Islands. This is a very robust bean but with high acidity and low complexity in flavour.

Floris has been working hard over the past year to remove all Solomon Koko from the farm.


The Flower

It all begins with the flower, a tiny orchid like pink beautiful blossom.

The tree flowers in October and May to bring about two main harvests a year April and September but flowers through the year in smaller amounts and therefore bears fruit continually through out the year which is very unique and special as it brings in income all year round for the farmers…


The Pod

The flower grows into this incredible pod of varying colours….

As soon as the Pod starts to show yellow it can be harvested…which is just a quick snip of its stem. Traditionally the machete is used but a slightly wrong stroke can damage the tree and it is super sensitive to anything that is not total love and respect for what it is!


Harvesting

The pods are cut from the tree and left to sit for 2/3 days – this begins the next phase

The 2017 harvest that we participated in was a blend of Criollo, Trinitario and even in the beans there was a blend of Trinitario and Criollio in the actual bean, which had a white inside and a light purple outside. Participating in the harvest was incredible because as I cracked open the pods and discovered criollo, criollo and Trinitario blends (within the actual bean), the next chocolate bar that would be created from these beans started to form inside of me... I could taste it and was excited to be bringing these beans home.

The pods are opened with a machete, carefully so no beans are damaged inside and the fruit and seeds are scooped out ready for fermentation.

The beans prior to fermentation are bitter and have a strong green flavor to them and no hints of chocolate…


Fermentation

Traditionally the beans still in the fruit, are scooped from the pod and placed in baskets woven from banana leaves and covered with more banana leaves

Many farms now use wooden boxes, but Floris still follows the traditional way used by her father and grandfather…woven baskets from banana leaves in small batches. This adds to the flavour and complexity.

The fermentation is a crucial step in the flavour of the bean and reducing the off flavours and tannins that dominate the non fermented bean. The fruit which tastes like tropical fruit sherbet (amazing) is scarified for the fermentation.

Tucked well up in their woven basket and many layers of banana leaf blankets they are left in the tropical sun for 24 hours.

After 24 hours the basket is opened and temperature checked – to the experienced Farmer this is simply done by putting your hand into it. It should be too hot to keep your hand in (over 48 degrees). If it is – this will be a premium batch of beans, and graded as such if it is not then the success of the ferment will not be as perfect in optimizing the bean flavor but it will still produce great beans for the local market.

The beans are then removed from fruit stem that has been holding them together and turned

Traditional in Samoa the ferment is from 3-5 days and this brings out very different flavours.

Floris and She have developed a custom ferment for She and we have two different time periods for our chocolate rolled beans and our Source to Bar bars.

Once the fermentation is complete most of the fruit will have liquefied and will drain away.

The beans are removed from their banana baskets and washed.

Not all beans are washed around the world but Floris is lucky to have a fresh water well on her land and so water is abundant. On the rare occasion there is a drought and the process has to be adjusted.


Sun Drying

After washing the beans are laid out in the direct sun for 2 days and then placed on traditional woven mats to dry for another 2-4 days in the shade where there is less stress for the beans.

About 60% of the moisture is removed in this process and the beans are now ready to be stored for their journey to She Universe New Zealand.

Ms. Sunshine Farms follows the old true traditions of Cacao farming in Samoa whilst also moving with new discoveries and cutting edge technique where it matters

• Natural fertilization • Pruning • Fermenting times • Drying techniques • Crop blending

Amongst the trees are Papaya, coconuts, coffee, limes, and soon vanilla…

An incredible amazing ancient and modern Farm that is growing world-class beans with She Universe to bring extraordinary super food chocolate.

Watch this space for the chocolate of 2017 April Harvest – it will be a taste sensation….unique and so filled with passion and love.


Love Cacao

Cacao Farming is hard work in the heat of the tropics and Floris is on her farm day after day, loving, knowing meeting her trees. At She we support this in every way we can to work with Floris and co-create extraordinary chocolate that is truly world class and also unique, honouring the trees, the power of Cacao and the gift of this incredible life. No two days are the same neither on the farm nor in chocolate making. The inner voice is listened to and followed and the gift is in the authenticity of every step and every moment following love's call in giving everything, over the edge everything to this chocolate……