Feeling cocoa and going bananas for Selva e Paz
Gudrun Götsch and her husband João Moraes are business partners producing foods with the help of agroforestry. Selva e Paz (that’s Portuguese for Jungle and Peace) is their company that makes delicious bars with only two ingredients. Personally I enjoy the simple things in life, but I wasn’t completely convinced that you could make something from just two ingredients, so I asked Gudrun some questions.
Gudrun, you make bars with cocoa and banana, but you don’t like calling them ‘chocolate bars’, why is that?
Though we use cocoa and dried bananas, we really don’t make chocolate bars. The grinding process for the cocoa is unique, we have a different mill. For chocolate the cocoa gets ground into tiny particles. We use a grinder instead. There are still crunchy chunks of cocoa found in the mass.
And the bars just consist of those cocoa pieces and banana?
Yes, cocoa and dried banana. Simple vegan raw food, without pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, etc.
With only two ingredients, how long do the bars stay edible?
The bars have a shelf life of six months, and potentially longer.
Where do you grow your cocoa and banana?
The area was bought with the cocoa plants already on it, as the land was farmed on before. It was bought 18 years ago, and by now it’s a mix of local vegetation, including some very old trees. The cocoa is found in the shelter of the rain forest vegetation.
What do the cocoa banana bars taste like?
Taste is subjective, but I would say a little bitter. However, the banana takes away most of the bitterness. We ferment our cocoa which decreases the bitterness, leaving a slight sour taste to combine with the fruity taste of the banana, and of course the chocolate taste of the cocoa.
You said fermenting cocoa, how does that work?
The process of fermentation goes through lactic, alcoholic and acetic phases. The cocoa is placed in in wooden boxes which are sealed off with banana leaves, so as little oxygen enters as possible. It takes between six and ten days to ferment, depending on the outside temperature. It involves mixing and turning the cocoa, transporting it from one box to another to avoid funghi growing on it. We move it around to ensure even fermentation, removing it once it has entered the acetic phase.
How does it taste at that point?
It is still slightly sour from the vinegar fermentation; the acetic phase leaves it with a fruity fermented taste. We take out the cocoa before it turns bitter again. You can eliminate that taste by storing the cocoa for an extended period of time so the acid evaporates. You could also roast it, but then you risk losing micronutrients and flavonoids.
They are phytonutrients (plant chemicals). Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
What goes into making your bars?
We use everything from our own farm. We don’t need to transport any ingredients from other places to our production site. It’s just those two ingredients, meaning no sugar or conservatives. All production processes take place on our farm.
Does that mean organic?
Exactly! We got our farm certified via a network of farmers, an NGO which deals with organic certification. About four farmers meet monthly to certify that each other’s farms and plantations are in fact organic, meaning nobody is using chemicals etc. Once a year we can ask for an independent committee to evaluate our properties. Also, thanks to the way they are cultivated, the bars gain energetic value.
Energetic value? In terms of calories, or metaphorically?
Selva e Paz Well, metaphorically because the new areas we will be cultivating will be reforested, so that brings good energy. Calories as well though! Our Selva e Paz bars are great for people who are physically active and pursue a healthy lifestyle. It is a small bar that packs a lot of energy including good fats and carbohydrates. We don’t roast the cocoa so the flavonoid levels are high.
Where are you selling Selva e Paz?
Currently in Brazil only, we are not exporting yet.
Are other flavors and combinations on the horizon?
In the future perhaps roasting the cocoa and processing the cocoa to liquor might be options. Other flavors, such as the parent of cocoa called pastate (that’s Portuguese for chayote) which has no bitterness at all, would be like the white cocoa version. Another bar with a larger percent of banana might be coming soon so that it’s sweeter and more chewy.