Friday, 14 June 2013

The Life of a Chocolate Hero

For those of us who knew and loved Mott I believe that we are still part of his story & there is much still to be done ….
The past ten days have been hard. 

Three people I know have died in the past three weeks. 

My fathers oldest brother, my uncle Victor died.  He was my godfather, but I have to admit that although sad we hadn’t been close a family and I’d be lying to say that it affected me much other than reminding me that life is short.

Within a few days one of my parent’s oldest friends died.  I wept a little.  His son I consider to be a cousin, so for me I lost an uncle again only this time I’d known him since I was six years old or so and we spent allot of time together as families.   He wasn’t old, in his seventies, and I was really very fond of him.

I have managed to type until this moment, and now a surge of sadness has swept over me.  I am head in hands staring at the screen willing myself to continue.  I am waiting until the wave passes.

Somehow my fingers have found their way back to the keyboard as I must tell the story of Mott Green, who was killed tragically aged 47 just 12 days ago and explain why after a relatively short time of knowing him I am so affected by his death. 

When an associate of Mott phoned me a week ago on Saturday night to tell me the news of the accident I was standing on the hallway.  I found myself on my knees. My first thoughts were of his friends and family. I cried almost instantly, which is the first time in my life I have ever done so.  Over then next week I had so many people phone me.  Everyone was in tears, because the profound affect that Mott Green had wasn’t just on me, it was in everyone he came into contact with and for some strange reason, which I cannot explain, this gave me comfort.  When I ask myself honestly why I feel such deep loss it is for many reasons.  I didn’t know Mott long, but in the time I knew him I had as part of my reporting role got to know him very well.  I knew and understood his philosophy, his achievements, his hopes, dreams and plans for the future and by recognising both  Mott and Arjen Van De Veen and shared vision of a better way of living I suddenly felt able and confident to commit to my own convictions.  

Meeting Mott changed me. He made me want to be a better person.  He was my chocolate hero.

A chocolate making visionary he was a single minded, bright eyed, humorous, energetic, crazy, environmentalist ...... 

Mott was a maverick who showed the chocolate world that there is an alternative way 
When you unwrap a chocolate bar and take a bite, and it’s possibly the most widely acknowledge source of edible pleasure known to man, yet very few people stop to consider who grew the cacao that made your chocolate treat possible.

As part of my research read various reports of more than 15,000 child slaves working on cacao farms in West Africa that is well documented in books such as ‘Chocolate the Bitter truth’ by Carol off and countless references on the internet,

The accepted way is that the cacao is exported and even in the case of fairtrade the current system of exporting the beans means that there is no question that farmers are losing out because all the value is in the processing. Most of the profit is made by large corporations and so it has always been widely accepted that you just can’t make chocolate where the pods grow. It’s too hot, because cacao trees grow in a limited geographical zone, of approximately 20 degrees to the north and south of the equator.

Well Mott turned that premise on its head. Mott was a maverick who showed the chocolate world that there is an alternative way by founding The Grenadian Chocolate Company.

My friend Chantal Coady of Rococo Chocolate first told me about her anarchist chocolate friend Mott about 4 years ago. Chantal’s description of the plantation and her affection for Mott captivated me and once I’d tasted this smooth easy chocolate there was no returning to anything less. I wanted to meet him. The Grenada Chocolate Company was described as one of the only small-scale chocolate-makers producing fine chocolate where the cocoa grows. What is truly unique is that they are producing chocolate right where the cocoa grows and they do their own fermenting as well as using their own extracted cocoa butter Cocoa butter is an essential ingredient in chocolate.

When I was given the opportunity to visit Grenada I was thrilled.  It was one of the most intense weeks of my life.  The whole week was almost an overload. A combination of having freedom away from my domestic responsibility, meeting like-minded people and getting to know Mott was amazing. 

The cocoa beans are hand harvested & carried in buckets across the river over boulders.                          
Chatting to friend and writer Xanthe Clay who was with me in Grenada she said that "it was clear that Mott's no compromise attitude has resulted in one of the most delicious chocolate in the world and quite possible the fairest chocolate ever. Motts model is unique. the Company is 100% owned by the farmers and I having researched extensively I don’t think that any other chocolate company on the world that is 100% owned by the farmers. Mott believed that the cocoa farmers should benefit as much as the chocolate-makers. They are involved in every aspect of the production of the chocolate, from the planting and growing of the cocoa trees to the fermenting of the fresh cocoa beans to the processing."

The farmers do not use of any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers and are certified organic. The sugar used is a fine organic raw sugar produced and milled by an organic growers’ cooperative in Paraguay organic soy lecithin is used as emulsifier in extremely small amounts.

Xanthe who was extremely knowledgeable about the world of chocolate explained to me that in most countries the cocoa is grown almost entirely on small family farms and "The Grenadian Chocolate at this point is no different from anywhere else in the world. The farming is a small and unsophisticated business as the way cocoa trees grow makes mechanization impractical.  In the case of this chocolate though the beautiful deep burgundy through to banana yellow trinatario Cocoa variety pods are organically grown and transported across boulders over a river to be fermented just 400 yards from where they are grown.  They are then transported to the chocolate factory. "

It’s a 3-day process from roasting the beans to becoming a bar. There are 10 farms contributing and about 30 people are employed.  When we got to the factory in Motts crazy van the smell of chocolate was heavy in the air.  The building rattled and hummed away like a living being itself and the contraptions in each room could only be described as Wallace and Gromit meets Willy Wonka. The combination of modified antiques and crazy looking contraptions are a testament to Motts determination to succeed.  As an engineering drop out student Mott invented, modified and altered both modern and antique machine to a job that had never before been done on this scale. 

Mott reinvented a press by using a standard 20 ton hydraulic car jack machined out of standard seamless pipe stock 
From the first moment where we were introduced to a modified a beautiful 1940’s coffee machine to roast the beans we were taken around the factory and Mott chatted about each machine like a father would talk proudly about a child.  He knew the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of each machine intimately and you just couldn’t help being amazed by his ingenuity. Because small batch chocolate-making is very rare, Mott, Doug one of the three original founders and Edmond had to create their own processing methods, designing their own machines. For example Mott explained that you cannot buy simple, small cocoa butter presses theses days. You could only buy large-scale expensive, energy intensive presses so Mott and his partners, had to design and build their own small-scale cocoa butter press.

Refurbishing the antique equipment really appealed to his philosophy and was really in keeping with the ethical and sustainable ethos, which was echoed by the use of solar-electric energy to power the machines.

Mott Laughing with co Founder Edmond Browne
When Mott decided to add cocoa butter back into the chocolate he wanted to make it there, however the industrial presses use as much as 6000 psi, which require over a hundred tons of hydraulic pressure pushing on a press cylinder. So the challenge in cocoa butter pressing was achieving these huge pressures. Mott reinvented a press by using a standard 20 ton hydraulic car jack machined out of standard seamless pipe stock (6 inch diameter) sitting on a 2 inch thick steel press plate containing lots of small holes and a fine stainless screen.

His eyes lit up and he patted the contraption affectionately as he explained how the steel piston pushes down on the liquefied cocoa inside the cylinder, clear liquid cocoa butter squirts and drips out of the bottom of the press plate and into the collection bowl. The piston needs to be re-pressurised every few minutes by cracking the jack a couple of times. In all he explained that it takes about 45 minutes to complete each batch in the press whilst the press is continually heated using attached gas burners.

Mott Chatting To Xanthe Clay 
 As we chatted Mott told me that cocoa farmers are some of the poorest people in the world.  I’d read a recent report by the Fairtrade foundation which also explained that millions of cocoa farmers really struggle to provide our annual chocolate bonanza. Over fifty million people who depend on growing cocoa for their livelihoods – especially in West Africa – have to survive on $2 a day and most cocoa farmers are still not getting a fair price.

Mott, Xanthe and I worked out that typically the best most cocoa farmers can expect to make from their pods is about 6% of the final price of chocolate paid by consumers so The Grenada Chocolate Company, being 100% owned by the farmers as well as making the chocolate just a mile from where the cocoa pods are grown, has literally turned the chocolate model upside down. - You can read Xanthe's article here in the Telegraph
Mott wasn’t just an anarchist; he was an idealist who lived his convictions. People who live their convictions are rare to find and yet Mott managed to find a group of people who also share his passion and dream for a fairer world who are also making it real through a movement called Fair transport. The first to be pioneering in the new sailing cargo transport market is the ‘Tres Hombres’  - even the name inspired by the cooperation of the three friends who took the initiative for this project seemed to echo Motts ideals.  I know that the three men who now take in turns to captain the ship and their crew will also miss Mott terribly. He was so excited that this beautiful 32-meter Brigantine had just transported over 50,000 bars of the Grenada Chocolate back 5,000 miles and so the chocolate is carbon neutral.
Mott Green
Mott as the Tres Hombres arrived in Grenada
When the Tres Hombers arrived in Portsmouth just 4 weeks ago it was a celebration.  Mott was in really high sprits.  Demand for the chocolate had, for the first time outstripped supply.  He’d just bought a boat to deliver the chocolate from island to island to continue to move the chocolate without any environmental impact.

It is quite possibly the fairest chocolate in the world and possibly the model for a chocolate revolution that will enable cocoa farmers across the world to realise more then just 6% of the final profit made from chocolate.

 I’ve been typing for a long time now.

Rereading the words above I hope that they go someway into remembering and celebrating a remarkable man.  Mott was an extraordinary person.  I feel immensely privileged to have shared a small part of his life. 

The world has lost a visionary.  I hope that his vision will continue, without compromise & for those of us who knew and loved Mott I believe that we are still part of his story. 

There is much still to be done ….

Parts of the recordings I did with Mott, Chantal, Arjen, the crew of the Tres Hombres and the people of Grenada can be heard this Monday at 3:30pm on The BBC Radio Four Food Programme. 


  1. What a brilliant tribute post to Mott. You must feel emotionally drained after these past few days.
    Your photographs show that Mott was full of life and that makes it all the more tragic.
    I'm hoping that writing this post although incredibly emotional will give you some comfort.
    The world has lost a very special person.
    Take care and thank you for taking the time and effort (which must have take a lot out of you) to pass on his amazing story.
    Hugs xoxo

    1. Nessie thank you. Yes I am drained .. but there are many others who are also equally if not more so. I have resolved to manage my life more closely to Mott's principles .. and this gives me comfort. x

  2. Oh Vanessa. What a wonderful post. Sad yet inspiring, enthusiastic yet tinged with grief. What an amazing man.

  3. A wonderful explanation & celebration of an extraordinary visionary and his work, Vanessa. You know how sorry I am about this terrible tragedy but I send you my love and a huge hug. Your respect & admiration flow from the screen...he sounds like an amazingly special man xxx

  4. Rachel thank you. I know you would have loved him. He was everything good and decent in eh world of Chocolate. Obstinate, single minded, perfectionist and utterly dedicated to fair practice. I loved his no compromise attitude from the moment I met him in London .. and part of him will stay with me, and so many others felt exactly the same way.


  5. beautiful tribute to a man who was clearly quite an amazing person.
    I'm sorry for the loss of someone like this, for his family and friends, and those whose life he changed.

  6. Oh my what an emotional post. But it had to be done right. A lovely farewell tribute to what sounds like an adventurous man. Who is going to carry on the work now?

    1. He had amazing friends including Chantal & James Coady, Edmond Browne, the Captains and Crew of the Tres Hombres, the staff at Rococo and the factory to name just a few.

      I know his work will continue .. it will take everyone a while to adjust to life without him.

      It's probably why I was so upset .. he was doing amazing things that changed everyones lives.

  7. An amazing man with an amazing story. My parents are from Grenada, and as such, I view it as my second home! I have always followed your coverage on Mott and the incredible works of the Grenada Chocolate Company with particular interest - sending links to my parents who knew him well and who are themselves devastated at such a cruel loss. Thank you for such sensitive and comprehensive reporting, and such an incredibly touching tribute to a great and much respected pioneer.

  8. I had no idea Mott had died. How tragic. We need more people like him and it sounds as though he might be my chocolate hero too if I'd met him. This is a lovely tribute you've paid him Vanessa. How lovely to have such vivid memories of this inspiring man.

  9. What an inspiring man, his complete chocolate producing innovations are incredible. I'll be listening to the Food Programme on Sunday.

  10. What a lovely tribute. He sounded an amazing person living an amazing life, so tragic it was cut so short. I'm so, so sorry.

  11. Hi Vanessa,

    Thank you for sharing your emotions and Mott's life. He was a man who followed his convictions and shared those in a very meaningful way. I am sure your words will be a great comfort to his family. I was shocked by his passing, he was always brimming with ideas. I will be meeting with the Tres Hombres over in Den Helder this week, some chocolate and a few glasses of rum will be raised to the man.
    We discussed how to continue his work, while we are not chocolate, we are sail cargo and we will continue with Mott's work on creating sail/cargo networks in Caribbean - hopefully a lasting tribute to this great pioneer.

    Big hugs

  12. Im new to your blog but this post spoke volumes to me - what a wonderful tribute & thank you for sharing it. Im so sorry to hear of your friends passing.

  13. Fascinating piece and a lovely, heartfelt tribute to a man who has obviously made a difference in his too-short life. And what an amazing smile he had. So glad you captured it, and the essence of his contribution, to a wider audience


If you are reading my blog I must warn you that I am not impartial. I want to influence you. I want to make you stop for just a moment and consider the effect of a lifetime of seemingly insignificant decisions and how making small delicious choices can change the world.

I believe that we can change the world one bite at a time.

It's a delicious revolution.