Monday, February 19, 2018

Celebration of cocoa innovation

The Guerrero family of Lopinot hosts grand tasting event

When you hear the name Guerrero,

you immediately think about the musical parang family and the superb-tasting indigenous cuisine at Mariposa, all in the valley of Lopinot.

At the recent celebration of cocoa innovation at Mariposa, a tasting event, guests were treated to an array of items including foods, beverages and delicacies, all showcasing a common theme, the inge­nious use of cocoa.

Marcia Guerrero, who comes from a family of six sisters and one brother, has had the experience that when you talk about cocoa, people imme­diately think cocoa panyol in backward agricultural communities.

“Yes, we live in a tranquil valley in the Northern Range but contrary to some beliefs, the resident community of Lopinot is a very

vibrant one. This is our second year of cele­brating the importance and value of our fine-flavoured cocoa.

“The concept of the event is one of a cocktail atmosphere where you elevate our local cocoa to new levels. There is the cocoa-based food and beverages, the music and entertain­ment, and the socialising among guests. People from as far as Germany, France and Australia have attended.”

Marcia first used the idea of maximising the value of our cocoa after she graduated from the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School. From then onwards, there was no holding back as she made this her prime focus.

“In 2011, I won first prize for best beve­rage and best dessert. Of course, I used cocoa as my main theme. At the Cocoa Board festival in 2012, I won best drink. This was a non-alcoholic beverage made with cocoa pulp. I also won third prize for cocoa pork and non-dairy ice cream.”

Since then, a visit to the family-run Mariposa has been on the itinerary of many international travellers coming to Trinidad. Some even get married at Mariposa and stay for their honeymoon. Mariposa offers accom­modation, entertainment, relaxation and, most of all, the finest-tasting cuisine. Guests love to relax on the verandah where myriads of hummingbirds come to savour the nectar from strategically placed feeders.

At the celebratory event, all members of

the Guerrero family, including nieces and nephews, had their hands full as cocoa-based foods and beverages vanished among appro-

ving guests as quickly as they were served.

Some of the favourite items included roast pig, encrusted with cocoa and served in a leaf-lined, open cocoa pod. There were also corn sticks served with a melted cocoa dip, chilled watermelon, also in a melted cocoa dip, and cocoa pulp as a salad dressing. Guests returned three to fo ur times to savour the unique taste of bowls of pumpkin and cocoa soup.

There was a constant line-up at the beve­rage counter where guests returned to refresh themselves with blends of cocoa ponche de crème and a citrus beverage made with cocoa pulp and watermelon.

The Guerrero family purchases cocoa from farmers in the valley and has begun receiving offers from other estates across the country. Marcia thinks the mindset of farmers who used to leave their cocoa unattended has changed.

“Once the cocoa has been properly fermented and dried, we are happy to accept. There are at least two main reasons why our family is promoting cocoa innovation. Firstly, we need to educate Trinbagonians into an appreciation of what we have and how to use it. We have the best fine-flavoured cocoa right here in Trinidad, and we need to do more than just sell our cocoa to foreigners to make chocolate.

“At present, members of our village council have formed a chocolate company. This is empowerment for our women as there are about seven or eight of us involved in buying the cocoa from farmers and producing chocolate that is 70 per cent dark chocolate, not a very sweet chocolate.

“Secondly, our cocoa innovation gives farmers an incentive. Over the years, a lot of cocoa estates have fallen into abandonment. This is our way of reviving their potential.”

The Guerrero family is currently working on a cacao experience for persons who are on gluten and dairy-free diets, as well as vegetarians and vegans. The family has already prepared a gluten-free cocoa wedding cake, which was crafted using cocoa beans as the flour base. Diners are asked to note that all recipes are the intellectual property of the Guerrero family as they are original ideas crafted in their home kitchen.

“We are increasing our menu items from appetisers to dessert and beve­rages, staying true to our local and cultural outlook.”

We can envision this initiative, taking our cocoa industry into new realms in the not-too-distant future. Thanks to the Guerrero family for pioneering this innovation, an innovation that may very well place Trinidad and Tobago into the international competitors’ realm of producing the finest-tasting cocoa and cocoa-based products in the world.