Cacao beans from Madagascar in the Indian Ocean are some of the finest in the world, and chocolate from this island nation is considered “haut de gamme,” or top of the line in French parlance. The unique terroir of the Sambirano River Valley in the northwest is characterized by fertile, red silt soil and a humid micro-climate, with ample rainfall aided by the Massif du Tsaratanana. More importantly, cacao trees are immune to disease largely as a result of Madagascar’s geographical isolation. Over the past century, a special hybrid of criollo and trinitario beans has developed, and these beans are highly appreciated for their complex flavor profile. I stayed in the town of Ambanja in Antsiraṅana province and spent one night at the bed-and-breakfast managed by “Mado” on Plantation Millot. Recently the French chocolate company Valrhona has become a principal investor and one of the owners of this estate which dates back to 1904. As part of my field work, I interviewed cacao farmers and the directors of several large cacao plantations in the region while also visiting a vanilla processing plant and a distillery which produces essential oils and perfumes, such as ylang-ylang, vetiver, and patchouli.

 Madagascar

August 2016

Chocolate as Muse

(“VOYAGE AUX PAYS DU CHOCOLAT”)