Photo credit Heritage Library Division, Winer Collection

Authored by: Anna Richardson-Thomas & Shaquille Rowley

Cacao, often referred to as Cocoa, comes from the Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). Cocoa crop is a seasonal crop. “The word cacao is used for the tree and the plants, and the word Cocoa for the dried beans and products of manufacture.” (Bekele 2).

The first variety of cacao was planted in Trinidad by Spaniards in 1525 and was known as the Criollo. The cultivation of Cocoa, however, began in the 18th century with the establishment of Stollmeyer Cocoa Estate in the Santa Cruz Valley. It has since been rename to La Pastora Cocoa Estate. Other estates developed around that time were the Champs Elysees Estate, Maraval and the Ortinola Estate in the Maracas Valley. Research shows that in the late 1800s, the Charlotteville Estate, Tobago was converted to a Cocoa Estate. As for the development of the Cocoa estate that occurred, “after 1890” (Brereton 82).

Trinidad and Tobago was once responsible for “producing 20% of the world’s cocoa, and by 1830 was the world’s third highest producer of cocoa.” (Bekele 1). This was a time when Cocoa was considered to be king. Calamity struck in the mid-1900s and almost decimated the cocoa industry causing a great decline in cocoa production. Tobago was vastly affected by Bird pest (parrots), and Hurricane Flora, 1963. Trinidad to a great extent was affected by diseases such as Phytophthora infection during World War I, and Witches Broom.

Today, cocoa continues to be harvested but at a smaller scale. The variety most grown in Trinidad and Tobago is the Trinitario a locally developed hybrid of the Criollo and the Forastero cocoa. Harvesting cocoa is done through picking, gathering, and extracting the beans. Traditionally cocoa beans are separated from the cacao pods with a machete (also called a cutlas) or wooden club.



It then undergoes a fermenting process to allow it to get its required flavour. This is done by leaving them to sweat for several days in box or piled together covered with banana leaves. After, the beans are artificially dried to reduce moisture.  Traditionally, and in some areas it still occurs, the beans are dried in the sun on a wooden floor. At the end of the process, farmers “dance” their beans to polish them.
















Photo credit Heritage Library Division, Winer Collection



Photo credit Heritage Library Division, Winer Collection


In Charlotteville, Tobago, male cocoa dancers were very instrumental in teaching new songs for dancing the cocoa. These songs are said to have carried an “erotic and derisive overtones” (Elder 40).  See below an excerpt of one of the many songs written for dancing the cocoa:


Coco Dance Song



Ol’ man die an’ he leave cocoa

Leave cocoa

Leave cocoa



We are the rulers we are the rulers

We are the rulers for cocoa


The raw material from the cocoa beans is mostly used to make chocolate. Today, there has been a resurgence within the industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Besides export, there are emerging artisan and small-scale producers who offer a wide variety of gourmet chocolates, cocoa powder and cocoa nibs for sale.  This includes internationally known Trinidad and Tobago soca star Macheal Montano’s Montano Chocolate Company; Brasso Seco Mountain Estate Cocoa Republic; Rancho Quemado Estate; Trinidad and Tobago fine Cocoa Company, La Reunion Estate, Centeno and Tobago Cocoa Estate, just to name a few.

A notable mention:

·     Not only is Public Relations Director of Brasso Seco Mountain Estate, Cocoa Republic Verena Siblal Boodoosingh making chocolate, but is also an author. In 2018 she was recognized as a First Time Author in NALIS’s First Time Author Appreciation Programme for her first 2017 published book entitled “The Adventures of Ana and Her Magic Dogs My country Trinidad and Tobago”. (


What to know more about the history and development of Trinidad and Tobago coco? Visit the HLD, 2nd Floor, National Library Building




Archibald, Douglas Rupert Douglas (Jack),Tobago 'melancholy isle' : volume III, Westindiana, 2003

Besson, Gerard A. Book of Trinidad. Paria Pub. Co., 1992


Bissessarsingh, Angelo. A walk back in time : snapshots of the history of Trinidad &   Tobago, Queen Bishop Publishing, 2015.


Brereton, Bridget. An introduction to the history of Trinidad and Tobago. Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1996.


Commonwealth Economic Committee. Plantation crops: a review of production, trade, consumption and prices relating to sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, tobacco and rubber. London: Pall Mall, 1963.


Craig-James, Susan E. The Changing society of Tobago, 1838-1938: a fractured whole. Cornerstone Press, c2008.


De Verteuil, Anthony. Great estates of Trinidad. Print Master (W.I.) Limited, 2000.


Elder, J. D. Folk song and folk life in Charlotteville : aspects of village life as dynamics of acculturation in a Tobago folk song tradition. Universal Printing. Products, Printers, 1971.


Posnette, A. F. Fifty years of cocoa research in Trinidad and Tobago. University of the West Indies (St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago). Cocoa Research Unit, 1986


Moodie-Kublalsingh, Sylvia. The Cocoa Panyols of Trinidad : an oral. British Academic Press, 1994.


Shephard, C. Y. The Cacao industry of Trinidad : some economic aspects. Printed by the Government Printer, Govt. Print. Off., 1937.



Digital Resources:


Besson, Gerrad A. “Cocoa.” The Caribbean History Archives, 12 July 2019,

Accessed 9 June 2021.


Besson, Gerrad A. “Conrad Frederick Stollmeyer.” The Caribbean History Archives, 8 Nov. 2011, Accessed 14 June 2021.

Berkele, Frances L. The History of  Cocoa Production in Trinidad and Tobago, The Cocoa Research Unit, The University of the West Indies Accessed 8 June 2021.


“Cocoa Production – A Producer’s Manual.” Ministry of Agriculture, Land & Fisheries, 2021, Accessed 10 June 2021.

“Brasso Seco Mountain Estate.” Coco Republic https, 2018, Accessed 14 June 2021

Espinet, Rachel. The Story of Trinitarios, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, 26 Jun. 2019, Accessed 9 June 2021.

“Harvesting & post-harvesting processing.” ICCO, Accessed 8 June 2021.

Lachenaud, P., Motamayor, J.C. The Criollo cacao tree (Theobroma cacao L.): a review. Genet Resour Crop Evol 64, 1807–1820 (2017). Accessed 9 June 2021

“La Reunion Estate.” Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company, 2021, Accessed 14 June 2021.

Nunes, Robert. The Business of Cocoa and Coffee in Trinidad and Tobago, Bar Business TT Magazine, 9 Dec 2019, Accessed 10 June 2021.


Philip, Frank. “The Chocolate Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago / Cook up.” The Caribbean Beat, no. 145, May-June 2017, Accessed 9 June 2021


Shepard, C. Y. “Economic Survey of the Cacao Industry of Trinidad, British West Indies.” Economic Geography, vol. 3, no. 2, 1927, pp. 239–258. JSTOR, Accessed 9 June 2021.

Salfield, Steve. A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHARLOTTEVILLE,TOBAGO, 31 July, 2013, Accessed 14 June, 2021.

“The International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad.” Cocoa Research Centre, The University of the West Indies, Accessed 9 June 2021.


“Trinidad and Tobago: An Agricultural Sector Study of Tobago” Inter-American Institute of Cooperation on Agriculture, pp.65, Accessed 14 June 2021


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