A Far North Queensland cocoa producer is one of 50 world finalists in the Cocoa of Excellence program.
The CoEx program is held every two years in Paris among 42 countries. Countries from all over the world select representative cocoa producers and submit their samples for the competition.
Australia submitted four samples including Far North Queensland producer Australian Chocolate.
Australian Chocolate Owners Chris and Lynn Jahnke, were very surprised to make the top 50.
“Competing against countries from all over the world is quite a feat, it is really amazing,” Ms Jahnke said.
“The competition has already put Australian cocoa on the map which is great and given our business international recognition.
“Since we have made the top 50, the beans we supplied will now be made into chocolate and will be judged in another round that will be announced on October 28.
“From there the finalists will be cut down to 17."
Ms Jahnke said this was the first year they had been nominated for the competition after only starting their commercial production in 2015.
Originally from Melbourne, Chris and Lynn sold their retail business to relocate to a property in North Queensland.
After watching a show on ABC Landline the couple decided to start a cocoa farm.
“Knowing nothing about horticulture, we planted the 2500 seeds in November 2012 and the trees went into the ground March 2013,” Ms Jahnke said.
“We are using a trellis system to mitigate against cyclones and also for yield. So that took a bit of research considering we don’t come from an agricultural background.
Now five years after they started their journey, Australian Chocolate will harvest 40,000 pods off their original 2.5 acre block in 2017.
This will produce 4000kg of cocoa beans, which is then turned into 50,000 80 gram bars.
“Our aim was always to put money back into the Far North Queensland economy, so we grow it here, manufacture it here and sell it here,” Ms Jahnke said.
“Our production is currently limited until we can raise more capital.
“At this stage we are only producing 600 bars a week and need to raise that to at least 2000 bars a week because the demand is there.
“We have another 8000 to 10,000 trees to plant but we are trying to raise extra capital to put those in the ground. So they are currently situated in a nursery on site.”
In the coming months Australian Chocolate plan to build a commercial kitchen on site, therefore making their production 100 percent on farm.
“At the moment we hire a commercial kitchen about two kilometres down the road, so having a kitchen on site will increase our production capacity and bring more travellers to our on farm tours,” she said.
“Customers want to know the process their food goes through and where it comes from, so we host on farm tours to show consumers exactly that.
“Our tours are very popular, it does bring money and boost the economy to Mission Beach. Between June and October we run tours three times a week. We do not stop at the end of the tourist season, so for the rest of the year we run two tours every week of the year.”
This business has not gone unnoticed after Australian Chocolate was nationally recognised in 2016 winning the overall trophy for the year,one gold and two silver medals at the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards followed up this year with one gold, two silver and a bronze,