Through the glowing Caribbean Sea, three stories collide. Two deaths, three nicknames, and endless adventure fueled by the love of chocolate remind us to set sail toward our dreams.
I wish I could say I took this photo. That I was there to witness the sun dreamily sink behind the clouds, beneath the edge of the very waters that carry chocolate via sail boat (and much more) across the world. If you're asking yourself who sends chocolate -or anything- by sail boat these days, meet David Friedman, AKA Mott Green.
Three years ago this month on 01 June 2013, innovator Mott Green (founder of The Grenada Chocolate Company) was reportedly electrocuted while working on solar powered equipment of his own design. It was intended to maintain cool temperatures of chocolate during export.
Globally, he is widely recognized for his philanthropic and environmental efforts, including the use of bicycles for delivery in the Netherlands, though he wasn't always recognized as Mott Green. Frequently visiting Grenada, locals grew to know him, and uniquely pronounced his nickname "Moth" as Mott. Eventually he settled in Grenada, and the nickname stuck. In reference to his commitment to the environment, he then adopted the surname Green.
Later that Summer I had just returned from surveying cacao farms in Ghana, to find a little wooden boat full of organic chocolate bars labeled The Grenada Chocolate Company waiting for me as a welcome home surprise from Staff Sergeant Philip Cirera, a combat medic I served with in the Army. Known to be swift, silent, and full of surprises in everything he did, Philip earned the nickname "The Silent Ninja" from our fellow Soldiers. Some of us knew him as Carlos. "Call me Philip", he once said to me. A true friend by many names, (and truly silent) his actions spoke loudest. In support of my writing and cacao research, Philip penned a hilarious story for me while deployed in Afghanistan.
In October of 2013, SSG Philip Cirera was home only one day after deployment when he was fatally struck by a vehicle in Louisiana. In his honor, the story he wrote remains exclusively reserved for a book I am writing.
I did not get to thank Philip in person. I never met Mott. I have met his team while in Seattle who were kind. I told them what Philip last wrote me about their chocolate. He had sent me chocolate from Grenada because it was ethical, and the most interesting to him. He loved that it arrived by sail boat.
Strangely, Mott's death closely follows Memorial Day.
Our every choice on every day may serve as an observance of the sacrifices and perseverance of those before us.
Today, on a day that is not a Federal holiday confused with barbecue, nor the anniversary of either man's passing, I am taking this moment to observe their absence and positive impact on the world. I thank them both for their kindness, generosity, and service to others in all forms. I can't speak for them, but it was known that these two men loved what they did, were dedicated to their community, and lived in such a way that it could be said they never worked a day in their life. Each were happily thriving in their own path. For many, today and tomorrow would not be possible without them. In loving memory, RIP SSG Philip Cirera. RIP Mott Green. You are not forgotten.
Reflecting on their lives begs the question, are you getting your feet wet? Grenada remains on my list of destinations, though I invite you now to dip your toes in with me and explore life with a fresh perspective. Returning from her adventure celebrating the 2016 Grenada Chocolate Festival, "Doreen The Chocolate Queen" shows us what it means to live life to the fullest her way -only as Mott and Philip would have wanted.
Name: Doreen Pendgracs
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Hobbies: Travel, culinary pursuits including fine wine and chocolate
Words to live by: I live each day as though it might be my last as you never know when it will be!
Nicknamed "Doreen the Chocolate Queen" following the release of your travel memoir Chocolatour, what inspired you to travel the world in search of the best chocolate?
I started out with the intention of writing a book about artisanal chocolate. After visiting Europe and immersing myself in the world of chocolate, I realized that there was far too much to cover it all in one volume, so I am now working on the second volume in a trilogy.
What is your criteria for "the best" chocolate?
Just as with wine, there really is no best chocolate. But what I really mean by best is that it is innovative, creative, and of the highest quality and purest of ingredients.
What is your earliest chocolate related memory? I don’t really have one.
Tell me about your favorites. Favorite type of cacao?
I think the most scrumptious cacao I have tasted is from AMO Cacao of Guadalajara, Mexico. They don’t ferment their beans. They just low-roast them prior to making their chocolate and the flavour is just so incredible.
I have so many favourites! I really love Roselen Chocolatier from Lima, Peru for the creativity and freshness of the ingredients. I also love the chocolate brownies from Paul A. Young of London and the confit chocolate-dipped black figs from Que Bo! of Mexico City. There are many bars that I like, most often the Madagascar variety, or dark chocolate bars flavoured with dried black figs.
Favorite chocolate pairings?
I love pairing Malbec wine with dark Fleur de Sel chocolate.
Is there any food or flavor you personally do not find to be compatible with chocolate? (bacon for example) Bacon goes very well with chocolate. Most everything goes with chocolate as there are so many types of chocolate. The success is all in the pairing.
Returning from your most recent adventure in one of the world's most cherished origins of cacao, what were your favorite memories or stand out moments during your Chocolatour of Grenada?
Grenada has put together an amazing chocolate festival. You get to visit cocoa plantations, meet chocolate makers both domestic and international), taste an abundance of chocolate and cacao cuisine, and even have a chocolate body wrap in the spa. That recipe of experiences creates a myriad of favourite moments in my mind.
What was your expectation of Grenada departing from Canada?
I knew I’d like it, but I fell in love with it. A remarkable country producing remarkable cacao and chocolate.
You are well traveled, but I must ask, did you experience any form of culture shock in Grenada?
No. It is an easy country to travel and love. The country in which I’ve truly experienced culture shock was the UAE.
Travel can teach us a lot. Did you learn anything new about cacao or chocolate?
I learn from every trip. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t take the time and expense to make all those journeys. For me, experiential travel is the only way to really immerse ourselves in the complete adventure.
I long ago learned that I judge a destination by its people. If they are kind, friendly and generous with their knowledge, it creates the formula for a great experience and magical memories.
What did you most enjoy during the Grenada Chocolate Festival?
I think our day at the Belmont Estate. It is a beautiful setting. We learned about cacao from a Caribbean cacao expert. And we ate a delicious meal of cacao cuisine.
Most unusual chocolate you have personally encountered in the world?
Chocolates made with blue cheese or goat’s cheese are very unique. But I love them both. In fact, I came home with three packets of chocolate goat cheese from Grenada and can’t wait to dig into it at our upcoming party.
For someone new to chocolate, what trip do you recommend for a first time Chocolatourist?
Switzerland. No one loves chocolate more than the Swiss. They make great chocolate and take great pride in everything chocolate.
Favorite place you have traveled? Why?
I love Hawaii, and now that they are growing cacao and making great Hawaiian chocolate, there’s all the more reason to visit regularly.
Where do you see your passion for chocolate taking you next? (Can be literal or metaphorical travel, writing, etc)
In addition to the books and my blog, I also do chocolate talks and pairing events, as well as chocolate dinners. The next step is to take the show on the road and begin leading chocolate small group tours to some of the best chocolate destinations of the world.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Learning to appreciate chocolate is a long term process, just as with wine appreciation. Slowly work your way up from milk chocolate to a dark milk, then a dark, and then pure chocolate or cacao. Cocoa nibs are a great way to enjoy the flavour and health benefits of chocolate without any added sugar. I eat them nearly every day.
Craving more Chocolatour? Visit http://chocolatour.net/