Caribbean Cacao


**Update: three wonderful craft chocolate bars made with Caribbean cacao, by 9th & Larkin Chocolate, Crow & Moss Chocolate, and Sirene Chocolate, are in the April 2020 issue of Luckbox Magazine in a clever piece on rum, chocolate, and cigar combinations, along with chocolate tasting notes by yours truly; click for the digital edition and see pp. 36 – 38! Thank you LuckboxMag and TastyTrade! **

chocolate from caribbean cacao
Crow & Moss Chocolate, Sirene Chocolate, Bixby Chocolate, 9th & Larkin Chocolate

What do these chocolate bars have in common?

Yes, they all meet my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate in that they are:

  • slavery-free
  • soy-free and additive-free
  • sustainable
  • small-batch and
  • scrumptious!

In addition, they are all made from cacao grown in the Caribbean!

When you think of food and drink of the Caribbean, maybe you think of excellent rum, cane sugar, jerk chicken. Cacao and chocolate also have important and delicious roots in Caribbean soil.

Cacao from Guatemala…
…in a small-batch grinder for 72 hours, to become chocolate.

The Caribbean islands became a major part of the cacao industry in the 1500s, after European colonizers brought cacao from native lands in South America to the islands for cultivation and export to Europe. Spain controlled most of the trans-Atlantic cacao trade from South America, so by growing cacao in the Caribbean, the English — and Dutch pirates — were able to compete. Slave labor was often used, and when slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873, profits went down, and commercial cacao-growing in the Caribbean became less important to Europe, especially as West African farms were being exploited and people there were finding themselves slave laborers.

Today, 2.1 million children work on cacao farms in Cote d’Ivoire, most in slavery or hazardous conditions, generally without schooling and often away from their family homes, so that we can have cheap chocolate in the west. The big brands are complicit, as articles and more articles reveal.

Good news: the rise of artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate made from ethical, traceable, single-origin cacao, provides a new opportunity for growing cacao in the Caribbean, in a way that supports people and planet.

crow and moss zorzal

For example, Reserva Zorzal in the Dominican Republic is a sustainable cacao farm plus bird sanctuary, where plants and animals live in a mutually beneficial ecosystem. The cacao is grown for quality, not quantity, and you can taste this in a chocolate bar like the one made by Crow & Moss Chocolate of Northern Michigan. The chocolate bar contains just 2 ingredients: cacao and sugar — all you need to make chocolate! My tasting notes:

Deep notes of cherry, caramel, and cinnamon, opening into earthy fudginess, and coming up to conclude on a lightly grape-meets-fennel finish. Long finish. Some complexity, yet relatively straightforward, with clarity, without muddiness. True to the bean. No bitterness. Ultimately interesting, balanced, accessible.

Those flavors are all from the cacao, and from how Mike Davies, founder of Crow & Moss and a professional baker and hobby farmer, roasts and grinds the cacao into chocolate in his 2,000 square foot manufactory.

crow and moss ingredients

crow and moss back

crow and moss pieces

Tasting the Caribbean through chocolate is exciting, and let me know if you’d like to travel with me to the source, as I am talking with Zorzal founder Chuck Kerchner, a PhD in forestry, about special upscale agri-tours to his cacao estate in the Dominican Republic.

caribbean cacao to chocolate
My brief tasting notes on these bars: *Crow & Moss Chocolate, Zorzal Dominican Republic 70% — fruity, rich, complex, fudgey. *Sirene Chocolate, Lachua Guatemala 73% — fruit notes open to herbal, gentle spice, and caramel notes; a very sophisticated bar. *Bixby Chocolate, Guatemala 70% — grape and raisin notes, deep, solid feel. *9th & Larkin, Dominican Republic Oko-Caribe 72% — bright notes, subtle, precision-focused.

In the meantime, you can find selections of the four brands featured here at stores like these:

9th & Larkin — The Grail Cafe, Totto’s Market

Bixby Chocolate — Beacon Hill Chocolates, Honeycreeper Chocolate, Rare Bird Preserves, Spilt Milk Pastry, Yahara Chocolate

Crow & Moss Chocolate — The Grail Cafe, Totto’s Market

Sirene Chocolate — Brew Brew Coffee and Tea, Cocoa + Co., Honeycreeper Chocolate, Totto’s Market, Yahara Chocolate

Keep eating craft chocolate — onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,


valerie and kate
Here I am (left) with Chef Kate McAleer of Bixby Chocolate, at last year’s Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. My dress just happens to match the brand. Kate matches on purpose.

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

Insta: @chocolateuplift


Chocolate Scouting at Dose Market

Chocolate Scouting at Dose Market

Let there be balloons: festive Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center
Let there be balloons: festive Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center

Picture chocolate, pastry, fashion, jewelry, and more, under one roof.

Picture that roof over my favorite building in Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center (which was the main branch of the Chicago Public Library when I was a little girl).

That was the scene for the April edition of Dose Market, a dynamic marketplace that showcases chefs, designers, and makers of all stripes. The market was co-sponsored in April 2015 by the Lake FX conference for artists and entrepreneurs, which added an extra touch of excitement.

At Dose Market: salted chocolate cranberry orange toffee by Terry's Toffee, a longtime favorite
At Dose Market: salted chocolate cranberry orange toffee by Terry’s Toffee, a longtime favorite

Add the fact that among the makers showcased were longtime chocolate friends, and soon-to-be-made chocolate friends, and of course I attended. I attended, I chocolate scouted, and I enjoyed.

What exactly is chocolate scouting? That’s my term for exploring the world and finding delicious chocolate and pastry. It’s something I’ve always done: on any trip to a new city, even as a child, I always wanted to find the best chocolate. That hasn’t changed, and I chocolate scout where I live and where I travel, for business and for pleasure.

Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center featured some exquisite and creative chocolate and pastry offerings from old friends…

Rare Bird Preserves, including chocolate blueberry
Rare Bird Preserves, including chocolate blueberry, owned by dear Elizabeth Madden, a French Pastry School grad
With dear Terry of Terry's Toffee
With dear Terry Opalek of Terry’s Toffee

And from new friends…

Deeply impressive chocolate raspberry tart and macarons by newcomer Verzenay Patisserie, a delightful husband-and-wife team
Deeply impressive chocolate raspberry tart and macarons by newcomer Verzenay Patisserie, owned by delightful husband-and-wife team Aqeel and Arshiya Farheen. Arshiya is the chef, and she graduated from Ferrandi culinary school in Paris.
Gingerbread cookies year round from Dough Dough Bird
Gingerbread cookies year round from delicious Dough Dough Bird, owned by new friend Julie Goding, a French Pastry School grad
Intriguing mole bread by Zapps Grains, with cacao and chipotle
Intriguing low-glycemic mole bread with cacao and chipotle by Zapp’s Dancing Grains

I look forward to chocolate scouting at the next Dose Market!

Sweet home Chicago
Sweet home Chicago

Your friend in chocolate,


Valerie Beck

Chocolate Expert, Speaker, Consultant

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“Uplift Through Chocolate!”