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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bundibugyo's first chocolate bar

Back in the day, our predecessor Alan Lee (according to missionary lore, I wasn't there) forbade his team from bringing chocolate bars into Bundibugyo. This was a relatively pristine, un-westernized, un-reached area, and he did not want our mission to unduly impact that. Twenty years later, John Clark and CSB agriculture teacher Alex created a chocolate bar from local ingredients.
In the interim, major cultural shifts have occurred. An improved road, trade, electricity . . and a complete switch in the cash crop from coffee (blighted by a disease in the late 90's) to cocoa. Everyone and anyone grows cocoa now, shiny-leaved short trees with their improbably wrinkled crimson pods. The population organizes itself around the cocoa harvest. It is the single greatest industry. Everywhere, beans are spread in the sun, drying. The middle-man buyers from Kampala come on the 15th and 30th of the month, and then there is money, for school fees and other priorities. Buyers sell to major companies for export and processing abroad. But the local farmer gets a relatively low price compared to the worth of the final product, the bar of chocolate created in Europe. A few years ago Luke tried to process and make some chocolate which was part of a now famous research paper entitled "From Bean to Bar" . . it was a tasty prototype, but the consistency was far from smooth.
Now John and Alex have begun to explore the possibilities for some further processing of local cocoa, specifically from the CSB farms. They harvested cocoa from the farms, fermented it, dried it. Roasted it. Ground it. Ground it again. Mixed in some sugar and milk and cooked again and cooled. And produced something with the texture and appearance of a real chocolate bar. For sure the first one created in Bundibugyo, maybe in Uganda (??). If we were wine critics we'd have words for it: earthy, fruity, tangy. John wants to improve the fermentation process to decrease the acidity. But it's a start.
Perhaps one day Bundibugyo will be known for its fine organic dark chocolate. In the meantime, we took some of John's product to the CSB staff at last night's Bible study, and they were enthusiastic. These are the sort of things that build a people's sense of honor, place, loyalty. I'm sure Jesus, who turned water to wine, would appreciate the gift of tasting the fruits of the local trees.


Brian Phillips said...

Kassie will be able to survive now.

Lmyhre said...
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