THE cocoa plant has inspired women to experiment in the kitchen. So much so that adding cocoa to their dishes and drinks for that unique flavour has almost become habit, a temptation hard to resist.
For instance, the chances of one receiving a chilled chocolate shake are far greater. Women and young girls of Namau in Tailevu are adding the cocoa ingredient to the local Fijian food like tavioka yaca (Fijian bread cooked with cassava) as well as cakes and soft drinks.
The new industry, having women are better utilising their skills in the kitchen. But this time they are adding a bit of cocoa to the recipe. Cocoa farming is the big talk in Tailevu now and at a recent Tailevu Provincial meeting a variety of cakes were served at tea time, all of which were blended with varying quantities of cocoa. These cakes were baked by women of Namau.
Namau villager Nanise Niuvou is one of the women who occasionally adds cocoa to her baking. The mother of four is 42 years old and the wife of cocoa farm manager Tevita Niuvou. She said she was also selling cocoa chocolate lollies, which sold like hot cakes at the village.
"Children love it and adults are buying them in the numbers for chaser during grog (kava) sessions," she said, smiling. Nanise's family said finding the perfect food source to blend with cocoa was challenging. In baking though, steady progress was being made.
At Namau village, fermenting cocoa beans is normally the job for the men and women would then afterwards taste and determine the quality of the cocoa produce. Men, they say, did not have very good taste buds and agreed to anything regarding the quality of the cocoa. So the task of tasting the cocoa after fermentation was left to the women. They had the honour of rating the quality of cocoa.
Nanise and her family say maintaining and producing cocoa on the farm was challenging and sometimes women would go out with the men to harvest cocoa pods from the trees. However, Nanise, like her husband, believes that producing cocoa will one day benefit their village in the near future.
And this, she says, keeps her going despite the hard work involved.
Adapted from the Fijitimes.com