A relic cacao tree nestles deep in the valleys of the Northern Range of the island of Trinidad in a sleepy cacao village called Brasso Seco. Moss hangs from this tree creating an eerie effect; its ripe, rough, “lagarta” (alligator) shaped pods only hint at their fascinating contents of pale-coloured, prized Criollo-influenced, flavourful beans.
This is the realisation of a cacao collector’s dream: ancient Trinitario cacao from the place where Trinitario originated. Likewise, across the numerous valleys in villages of Aripo, Lopinot, Naranjho, Cumana in North Trinidad and the steep terrains of Moriah, Runnemede and Lanse Fourmi in Western Tobago, cacao trees of mainly relic Trinitario genotype still survive, carefully conserved in farmers’ fields over the decades spanning from when cocoa reigned as king, in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, to the present day. The chocolate world owes these dedicated farmers a debt of gratitude.
Cacao scientists from Bioversity International and the University of British Colombia at Vancouver, joined forces with some from the Cocoa Research Section of the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs (MFPLMA) and the Cocoa Research Unit (CRU) of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago and conceived and fine-tuned an ambitious project to promote and utilise the latent treasures contained in the vast acreages of relic cacao still remarkably preserved in Trinidad and Tobago.