Kerala, known as ‘God’s own country’. This might sound a bit presumptive, but looking at the abundant nature, rich culture, colourful festivals, diverse flora and fauna, and beautiful temples, mosques and churches, Kerala may claim this motto. And we haven’t even mentioned Kerala’s bounty of agricultural products and spices: 97% of India’s black pepper is grown in Kerala, as well as other spices, like vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.
The Idukki hills are known for their tropical climate with an average temperature of over 24°C. Rain is abundant with over 2000 mm precipitation per year, but there is also lots of sunshine. If you don’t like to get wet, it is best to avoid Idukki in July when a whopping 454 mm rain is falling. The green hills in Idukki are known for their fertile soil, rich with organic matter. Weather conditions combined with soil and topography provide an excellent environment to grow high quality cocoa.
The Idukki hills are part of the Western Ghats mountain range, stretching some 1600 km from north of Mumbai
to the southern tip of India. The mountain range is a biodiversity hotspot, and home to the largest population of endangered Asian elephants, lion-tailed macaques and sloth bears. Tropical forests with a rich diversity in flora and fauna cover more than half of the Idukki district. Cocoa trees grow under the canopy of these forests and are intercropped with spices, like black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and fruit trees such as coconut, papaya, mango, jackfruit, passion fruit and banana. This elaborate agroforestry system serves as a natural buffer zone to protect the forests of the surrounding hills.
Cocoa beans are Trinitario and Forastero types, more specifically Mankuva. This variety is named after Mankuva village where its mother tree grows. The beans are typically large. Idukki Organic cocoa is characterised by a chocolaty profile with a pleasantly smooth and creamy texture. The fresh tones of green apple are followed by an interesting spicy flavour development with hints of sea salt, cardamom, black pepper, and even white wine, finishing with notes of nuts and dried fruits, notably dark raisins. The wet beans are purchased directly from the farmers and processed at the GoGround central post-harvesting centre. The beans are fermented for 5 days in wooden boxes made from Wild Jack timber, covered with jute bags. The beans are dried on big tables under shelter, where they are constantly shuffled and monitored. Drying and selection is a women-only managed process. Once dried, inspected and manually selected, humidity is checked. After final approval the beans are packed in 30 kg polypropylene bags with an inner liner, and ready for shipment.
Cocoa was not an important cash crop for the farmers in Idukki until the arrival of Ellen and Luca, a Belgian- Italian couple with a passion for driving change in rural communities. They founded GoGround beans & spices with the purpose to support farmers to grow the best cocoa possible. Every week GoGround staff visits farmers in the project to buy all cocoa beans they have available, regardless of quantity or season. The farmers receive premium prices for premium quality and are paid immediately every week – a welcome steady flow of income. Silva pre-finances the contracts to allow prompt payments to the farmers. Because the farmers can trust GoGround will pass by, they wait with breaking the cocoa pods until collection day. This ensures that only the freshest wet beans are used to produce Idukki Organic cocoa. The weekly encounters offer an excellent opportunity to discuss agricultural practices with the farmers, develop and reinforce organic methods, and help them to improve the production and quality of their cocoa.
GoGround’s focus for the coming years is to increase value added in the field. Production of cocoa butter started in 2019 and the objective is to increase this in the coming years. The Social Development Goals of the United Nations, also known as Global Goals, are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Region: Idukki district, Kerala state in southwest India
Organisation: a social enterprise
Area: 150 ha
Variety: Trinitario and Forestero types, Mankuva
Flavour Identity: Chocolaty profile with a creamy texture, fresh acidity of green apple, pleasant spicy hints of sea salt, cardamom and black pepper, finishing with an undertone of dried fruits notably dark raisins
Fermentation: Centrally fermented, 5 days in cascading wooden boxes from Wild Jack timber
Drying: Sun-dried on tables under an open shelter
Harvest: June - September
EU and USDA Organic certified
100% traceable supply chain up to farm level. Wet beans are brought directly from farmers and processed in a central post-harvesting facility, where they are packed and stuffed into containers.
113 farmers benefit from premium prices for their cocoa, weekly payments and training. The philosophy is to build committed relationships. Post-harvesting is a women-only managed process.
Forest and Nature
Cocoa growing in agroforestry helps to preserve tropical forests and biodiversity. No pesticides and only organic fertilisers are used.