A Roatan husband-and-wife team planned to go into production in April with what they said would be the first chocolate bars made on the island, under the brand name Kakaw Roatan. Vidal and Jodie Villela expected to begin selling the bars at their Mayan Gold gift stand at Mahogany Bay, as well as at gift shops on the island and online. They also expected samples to be appearing on pillows in guest rooms at Infinity Bay and Grand Roatan in May as a part of their evening turndown service.
Previously, the Villelas sold chocolate bars imported from Nicaragua. The new product will be made at a small workshop in Alba Plaza from Honduran beans. They have been experimenting in their kitchen since March, with a little help from a Dutch expert.
Vidal persuaded Ed Deerwin, a retired chocolateer, to come to Roatan during a 16-day technical assistance visit. Deerwin was invited by the Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola (FHIA) to help Hondurans produce more value-added products from their cocoa beans. During an afternoon in the couple’s kitchen, at Sea Star Villas, he helped them improve their tempering – the crystalization process that gives the chocolate a bright sheen and smooth texture.
Vidal said the Bay Islands were the first place where Europeans are known to have come into contact with cacao, the raw material from which chocolate is made. When Christopher Columbus visited Guanaja in 1502, he said, Columbus’s brother was served cacao aboard a native boat and wrote about it in his journal.
Vidal said Honduras produced Trinitarian beans – high-end, gourmet beans that account for only about 3 percent of global production. “This is a niche cacao,” he said.
As of late March, the Villelas planned to begin production with two or three employees then expand as necessary. They were experimenting with different recipes, including adding almonds, coffee beans and other flavorings to the bars, using all natural ingredients from Honduras. The bars are dark, smooth, succulent and not overly sweet, based on our taste test. Those accustomed to mass-marketed chocolate are in for a surprise.