Being a chocolate maker who can’t eat your average chocolate sounds pretty strange. Except, that describes my friend One/One Cacao’s Nick Davis – maker of some of the strongest, most beautiful chocolate you’ll ever experience.
And all because one day after a mystery illness a doctor told Nick that he couldn’t eat food with preservatives anymore, which meant amongst other things, he was off his favourite Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Which later led him to think … ‘why not make my own?’ with the result being honestly the best I’ve ever eaten.
However, the sadder back story is not Nick’s sweet tooth being pulled out his head; but rather that while Jamaica grows some of the world’s finest cacao, the domestic industry is relatively stagnant, leaving international chocolatiers to pick off the island’s finest raw ingredients to make their finished product taste better.
“That’s what a lot of the Swiss chocolatiers have done, a lot of the Belgian chocolatiers have done – y’know people we always associate with fine chocolate. To find out that’s what was happening and that we have an industry in decline, that we have farmers who have given up in their cacao, that no young people are going into farming cacao, but there’s a reason for that, because they’re being screwed by the people outside of Jamaica! There’s a space for small chocolate makers to be able to do something about it,” he says.
Much of his inspiration comes from the Grenada Chocolate Company and its hands-on late founder Mott Green – who tragically died while fixing a solar PV panel on his roof – who built an ethical, environmentally sensitive brand complete with its promise of ‘from bean to bar’.
For foreign consumers who want to know their chocolate wasn’t made by exploited child workers, brands like the Grenada Chocolate Company can charge a premium price for their premium, ethically-made product. The product is now available in stores throughout the United Kingdom.
Just a shame for us then that the very equipment being used in Grenada … even that came from … you guessed it … Jamaica and an old chocolate factory in Highgate, St Mary.
“Grenada might be the Spice Island but we’re Jamaica – it doesn’t come more name brand in the region than us!
“What we have here is great raw material that goes outside to become (an) added value product when there’s nothing stopping us here from making great chocolate here with expertise, experimentation and training,” says Nick. “What I am trying to push for with One/One is not about me, about one company but we need to build an industry here One/One Cacao: where Jamaican chocolate can be world’s best so the world can see – just like they know Blue Mountain Coffee – they can know that Jamaican cacao is an incredible product.”
His goal is for One/One Cacao to help local farmers by paying them a decent price for their raw product and then win over foreign consumers by producing a well-packaged quality offering, which has that ethical/Fair Trade story to differentiate against mass-produced chocolate.
A journalist by trade, Nick’s actually the BBC’s Caribbean correspondent, and One/One Cacao owes itself to his inquisitiveness and in particular, one weekend country trip when once again he had to sit out dessert because of his allergy.
“Everyone else was going to be able to have their own dessert or whatever so I roasted some cacao beans and then ground it by hand and I tell you what, grainy as hell, really grainy, but I tasted it and I was like wow I did that. And that’s something I want to be doing further down the line; giving education; showing kids how to make their own chocolate.”
Thankfully his skill has progressed since then and what could be referred to as ‘bitter’ if you’re used to more ‘artificial’ chocolate, might be better regarded as STRONG! With 70 per cent cacao, the remaining ingredient being cane sugar to sweeten, the flavour is intense. In fact One/One Cacao’s tagline, developed by Nick’s girlfriend Marta, who is also responsible for the beautifully shape moulds, is simply it’s three ingredients, ‘Cacao, Sugar, Love’.
And as he reminds, chocolate like his is also high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. So yes, eating chocolate can be healthy.
“Chocolate is as a complex thing as wine is and the appreciation is the same. More and more people in the US; and in the UK and Europe have always have had that appreciation. Jamaican chocolate has incredibly fruity tones and as it goes down you will pick up on different flavours.”
Currently finishing outfitting his small chocolate factory in Quarterdeck, St Mary, Nick is also preparing to accept visits from schools and tourists, both foreign and local. Visitors will be able to learn the process of how the chocolate goes from bean to bar.
“Tourism is a shop window. We forget we have millions of people who come to this country each year and anything we can do to enhance their view of our country can only be a positive but unfortunately, and I know that this is going to be a bit hard on the hotel industry, but have you ever eaten in an all-inclusive? For me that’s not the best that Jamaican food has to offer.
One/One Cacao will be available for purchase locally by May 2016. Nick would also like to thank the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Montego Bay, which has helped mentor his and other startup businesses.