A cocoa story

Cocoa is one of the most ubiquitous products in the bakery world, used in everything from pastries to breads to (obviously) chocolates. But what actually goes into growing the trees our cocoa comes from? Laurence Marmara from East Trinity Cocoa knows all about this. We had a chat with him to learn all the details.

Tell us about East Trinity Cocoa.

East Trinity Cocoa began in 2012. It was carefully thought out and researched so we could grow cocoa and a find a market in a new industry. We were determined to offer not just a new product but a sustainable product. The brains behind the business is my wife, Ginetta.

The processing facility consists of state-of-the-art machinery. We’ve had the facility since 2020. We are the only company to produce Australian cocoa butter and cocoa powder, and we are able to produce 4 tonnes of Cocoa Liquor per week.

How much cocoa do you produce in a season?

We produce around 12 tonnes of cocoa beans per season. We also have farmers who supply us with pods, making us the largest producers in Australia. We have roughly 40–55kg per tree of pods.

What conditions are required to grow cocoa in Australia?

Cocoa needs a tropical climate, humid, not cool nor dry. That’s not to say that the tree won’t grow, but the fruit is the prize, and consistent fruiting is essential.

You grow a variety of different species of coca, can you tell us a bit about what these are used for?

We planted 19 different varieties and found only four were suitable for our farm. Two varieties are self-propagating, and the other two are high in oil content.

Laurence Marmara with cocoa pods on a truck

What does the harvest process involve?

The harvesting of the cocoa pods is done by hand. 8.5 tonnes of pods will give you 1 tonne of dried cocoa beans. Once the pods are binned at the processing facility, they are cut open, and the beans are exacted by hand. We do have a machine to do this, but the problem is that some pods, although they look good on the outside, are mouldy on the inside. In an automatic situation, mouldy beans will infect the good beans and fermentation process.

What are the challenges of growing cocoa?

Knowing when to plant your seedlings. How to combat insects such as leaf sucking insects. Wind is a major factor when plants are young, as well as having the young plants sun harden before planting.

Once the cocoa has been harvested, what process does it go through before sale?

Once the pods are brought in for processing, the pods are split to remove the beans, which are immediately fermented in our boxes. When the fermentation is finished, the beans are then spread over mobile tables and left in the sun to dry. Once they are dried, they are packed into hessian bags (50kg). Some of the beans are sold this way, while the rest are roasted, winnowed and de-husked, and chopped into Cocoa Nibs and sold this way. Once turned into nibs, they are taken to our super refiner. 500 kg at a time are turned into cocoa liquor.

Where does your produce go?

Our produce is sent to Haigh’s Chocolate as raw beans and to Belgian Delights as cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. Nerada Tea receives our cocoa husks. Our cocoa powder is the only Australian powder which is sold all over Australia and Malaysia. Around 2 tonnes of beans are sent off around Australia to different chocolate makers. Some beans are sent to the USA.

Tell us about your sustainable practices

We make our own three-phase power, solar to run our machinery including irrigation. We use no chemical fertilisers, all organic, and mulch our trees with old newspapers. We spray with fish emulsion and blood and bone; this helps us in keeping our heavy metals at one of the lowest levels in Australia, 0.09 grams per kilo.

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