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High Lane Chocolatier visits Ghana to see first-hand where it all begins.

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Marple Simon Dunn Ghana Cocoa The Bean

Simon Dunn

The name Simon Dunn needs no introduction to chocolate lovers in the area and first opened its doors nearly twenty years ago.Today, the company operates from premises in High Lane where Simon, together with wife, Anne, children, Oliver and Camilla and a highly-skilled team produce a wide range of quality chocolates that are sold all over the country.

Having always been fascinated by the chocolate-making process, Simon had long wanted to see for himself the source of the business. Late last year the opportunity arose. Simon and Oliver boarded a flight to Ghana, the first stage in an arduous journey to the start of the chocolate trail.

Simon Dunn

Conditions for growing cocoa beans exist only in a narrow band five degrees north of south of the equator. The crop is Ghana's biggest agricultural export but grows within deeply forested areas, a long way from the major centres of population. A chance remark at the hotel led to the discovery that one of the waiters used to work on a cocoa farm. He agreed to accompany them and act as a guide. The next morning they climbed aboard the bus that would take them deep into the interior. It took ten hours. Tired and hungry, it was late at night on the second day of their expedition when they finally arrived in a tiny village near Sefni-Wiawso.  

Over the course of the next few days, Richard, their guide from the hotel, gave Simon and Oliver a fascinating tour of some of the farms. Cocoa pods are grown on the cacao tree with the flowers hand-pollinated by farmers. Although the region is blasted by the equatorial sun, the cacao trees require shade and only grow to a height of around eight feet. Surprisingly, there is no mechanisation. Grown pods are harvested manually, cut from the trees with knives attached to long poles. The beans themselves are removed from the pods with lethally sharp machetes. Simon and Oliver both gingerly took a turn at this, much to the amusement of the locals who routinely slice them open without concern. Harvested beans are taken to the village and laid out beneath banana leaves, where a process of fermentation takes place. Two days later, dried out, they are packaged and sent on to the producers.

The two spent a week in Africa, visiting the village and the school where the children of the growers are educated.  Simon has written a children's book, which tells the tale of a character called Cocoa the Bean. Clearly passionate about the subject, he is already planning a sequel, which he hopes will promote better understanding of the production processes involved. 

Cocoa The Bean is available from the shop or through the company website: www.simondunnchocolates.co.uk