There are more uses for cocoa beans than simply making a chocolate bar.
Wayne Cezair, owner of The Cocoa Pod, is on a mission to find every possible use for Trinitario chocolate in his shop – The Cocoa Pod.
“The Cocoa Pod is a research and development facility intent on trying to investigate what we can do with our precious cocoa beans other than sell it. We are developing products that we could sell as a downstream producer or manufacturer rather than selling the raw materials, which is all we have been doing,” Cezair told Business Day in an interview at his shop.
Located on Gordon Street, The Cocoa Pod is a shop with a wide variety of chocolate products ranging from cocoa flour, cocoa bitters, vegan chocolate pudding thickened by sea moss, cocoa beard cream and cocoa butter hair products.
The Cocoa Pod also produces chocolate bars, most of which are dark chocolate and some of his bars are infused with other herbs and spices such as moringa, guarana, mint, scotch bonnet peppers and coffee.
Many of his chocolates range from 50 per cent to 75 per cent cocoa, but he also makes an 85 per cent cocoa bar from de-acidified beans for those who want more concentrated cocoa without the bitter taste.
Cezair’s only milk chocolate bar is made using coconut milk. He does not like to add dairy to his products as he says cow’s milk diminishes the nutritional value of the cocoa. He also does not use preservatives such as soy lecithin.
He also makes spreads called Not Too Sweet to rival other chocolate and nut butter products. He has a chocolate peanut butter and coconut oil spread which he says rivals a popular hazelnut spread.
“All the brands, I could put my spread up against it in every measure, whether it is taste, quality of product. It has more cocoa than any of the commercial products,” he said.
His chocolate peanut butter is made with fresh peanuts and no preservatives and his chocolate tahini spread is made with sesame seeds.
His Dip’n’Spread line is like chocolate jams with flavours such as chocolate and sorrel, chocolate and mango, chocolate and guava, and chocolate and pineapple. He also has a sweet and sour Dip’n’Spread and a sweet and spicy spread.
Cezair is a naturopath who focuses on using plant products to maintain wellness. He attended medical school at McGill University in Canada but left the programme. After reading Bernard Jensen’s book – Foods that heal: a guide to understanding and using the healing powers of natural foods – Cezair became more interested in using food to maintain wellness rather than using pharmaceuticals to treat illness.
He said unprocessed cocoa is rich in nutrients that can help regulate insulin and help mitigate against illness, including strokes.
“The active and biologically active ingredients in the cocoa, of which there are many, are flavones. That is a bioflavonoid. It only occurs in two plants, one of which is cocoa. That flavone is an insulin assistant. Basically it helps insulin remove sugar from the blood and help take it into the cells,” he said.
According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, flavonoids are a group of natural substances found in some fruits and vegetables. They are known for their beneficial effects on health. Flavonoids are now considered as an indispensable component in a variety of nutraceuticals because of their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Cezair produces cocoa and chocolate syrups he claims are healthier as the flavones neutralise the unhealthy properties of the sugar.
“If the sugar is infused with the flavones from the cocoa, which help insulin to remove the sugar, you are actually assisting the insulin production. I consider it healthy,” he said.
Though he does not have the lab technology to develop nutraceuticals, he wishes someone in the government would start investing in that industry.
“Even the biggest chocolate makers, all of them are doing research on other products. They made their money on chocolate and now they are saying what else can we do with beans aside from chocolate bars, they found a right niche in nutraceuticals.”
He highlighted Mars Incorporated, a major chocolate producer, has branched off into selling chocolate nutraceuticals called CocoaVia. CocoaVia sells capsules and drinks with a concentrated amount of flavonoids found in cocoa.
Cezair, working with a company in Barbados, produces gluten free cocoa flour. He used to sell this flour along with a brownie recipe.
“I created cocoa flour out of the beans itself. I would not say it is a sustainable practice because it makes for a very expensive flour, but you can use it instead of melting chocolate. If you want to make brownies you could make a cocoa flour, throw an egg, some fat and sugar and off you go. That is a chocolate brownie made from the cocoa flour,” he said.
Now, he uses the same cocoa flour to make chocolate cookies with cream cheese, cashews and dried fruits.
He also works with Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados to produce Esprit de Cacao, a cocoa liqueur.
His experience in medical science gave him an understanding of chemistry, which he uses to mix his beauty line products made out of cocoa butter.
“I’m not a trained chemist, but I did have my ears open in class, so there are a lot of things that stuck. Like developing an oil in oil emulsion,” he said.
The Cocoa Pod has body butters, foot scrubs, makeup removers, mosquito repellents, beard creams and more. He is currently working on producing a cocoa butter sunblock.
The Cocoa Pod is currently a two-person operated business. While he would like to manufacture more, he would rather focus on coming up with ideas for products rather than produce the chocolate products at scale. He said a number of people have been interested in assisting him with manufacturing. However, he would rather develop his brand and license The Cocoa Pod brand out to people instead of disclosing trade secrets.
“I want to develop a brand and a brand following and license it to someone else to do the manufacturing. I cannot license the technology because the intellectual property is a trade secret. If I give you the trade secret, what is to stop you from manufacturing it under a different name. If I develop a brand and they like the brand then they can’t steal the brand.”