In 2012, the Divine Chocolate Board of Directors gathered in Northern Germany at Weinrich, the family-owned factory where Divine Chocolate is made, for one of its annual meetings. Read on below to learn more about the experience, as written by Divine CEO Sophi Tranchell.
Cord Budde Jr., the current owner of Weinrich, is the 4th generation of his family to run the factory. The room where the board meeting was held had been Cord's grandparents' dining room. On the wall was a painting of Ludwig and Luise Weinrich, who founded the factory in 1895. He had fond memories of Christmas dinners around the table. On the table for the meeting were plates piled high with every flavor of chocolate to tempt your taste buds.
I remember attending Kuapa Kokoo's 10th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2003 with Cord in Ghana; it was the first time he had seen where the cocoa originates. Cord and his team have been amazingly supportive of Divine, developing delicious new flavors and helping us solve problems. (For example, when our chocolate got stuck in the chocolate coin factory!) He has also supported the farmers directly, building a schoolhouse for the teachers in the new school that Kuapa built in Amankwatia.
Heading into the factory, we all had to don paper overalls and hair nets, a style challenge for anyone. Then, we had to wash and disinfect our hands to make sure we didn’t bring in germs. As you enter, the heat hits you first. Then, you hear the low hum of the vats and the pervading smell of chocolate.
Throughout the visit, we see the whole process:
- roasting and grinding the beans,
- making cocoa mass,
- adding the sugar and milk,
- conching for hours in big vats to ensure the smooth consistency,
- nozzles depositing liquid chocolate into molds which are chilled,
- the bars turned out, wrapped, and packed in boxes through a maze of conveyor belts, pipes, machines and busy people.
Watching bars with whole hazelnuts being checked and turned over manually was thoroughly mesmerizing!
It was really good to see President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, Christiana Ohene-Agyare, and Kuapa Kokoo Ltd Managing Director, Emmanuel Arthur, finally getting to see how Kuapa's own chocolate is made. They smiled a lot, and I suspect they enjoyed the warmth and the increasingly sweet smell of the hot chocolate. Being in the factory reminded me of the humid heat and distinctive smokey smells of the cocoa farms in Ghana.
As we started to make our way home (loaded down with chocolate, of course), Hurricane Sandy hit the USA coast, and our US-based Directors had to negotiate their way onto the next available plane.
This was certainly another mammoth journey and a great adventure for the Divine Board, and it was yet another reminder that this is really a very different way of doing business.