A tasty initiative launching on November 6 aims to link New Zealand and the Pacific region of Bougainville through crowdfunded chocolate making.The Wellington Chocolate Voyage kickstarter campaign is run by Wellington chocolate makers Rochelle Harrison and Gabe Davidson and international development worker Sera Price. The Voyage will raise funds to upgrade a cocoa plantation in the Pacific region of Bougainville, improving the farmers’ equipment then buying a crop of rare, high-quality cocoa beans from them at a fair price. Gabe and Rochelle will transport the beans to Wellington themselves on a sailing ship and turn them into a uniquely flavoured artisan ‘Bougainville Bar’ at The Wellington Chocolate Factory.The Bougainville Bar will be gifted to Kickstarter backers and Bougainville cocoa bean farmers – many of whom have never tasted chocolate.‘The Voyage is an adventure for anyone who loves chocolate and wants to see amazing places like Bougainville get a fair deal,’ said Mr Davidson. ‘We built the idea out of passion for great food, ethical business, and extraordinary people. By backing us you get to follow the entire journey from bean to bar. Plus there’s a sailing ship and everyone can get chocolate!’Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea, is familiar to many Kiwis from the book and movie ‘Mr Pip’. New Zealand has a long-standing connection with the region, which experienced a devastating civil war during the 1990s.
‘Bougainville once had fine quality cocoa but the industry suffered, as did the rest of the region, from war and neglect.’ said Ms Harrison. ‘They are rebuilding and we want to help put their cocoa back on the map!’
Running the Wellington Chocolate Factory is a dream job for the pair, but it’s also made them keenly aware of the difficulties faced by cocoa farmers worldwide. Through a chance meeting with international development worker Sera Price, they learned of a cocoa-growing legend in need of some support.
‘James Rutana is Bougainville’s Mr Cocoa’, said Ms Price. ‘He’s been growing and developing cocoa beans since 1958, and runs a programme to share his knowledge and planting materials with other farmers in the region. James is an inspirational figure but has faced many setbacks – the Wellington Chocolate Voyage is way for Kiwis to get behind his dreams for Bougainville.’
‘The Voyage is part of the new revolution in artisan chocolate, where mega-industrialised production takes a back seat to skill, care, and people.’ said Mr Davidson. ‘We want everyone to be part of making great chocolate and a better tasting world.’
The Wellington Chocolate Voyage aims to raise $36,000 or more, with backer options starting at $10. It launches on Kickstarter Thursday November 6.
Video preview is available at http://youtu.be/vRRgShmDxEI