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Olando Blooming

Monday, September 21, 2015
Clement Olando Bobb

My name is Clement Olando Bobb and I am the chairman-founder and president of the Tobago Cocoa Farmers Association.

My father tried to name me “Orlander” and, thank god, it was misspelt on the birth certificate. So I ended up with “Olando”. I named my chocolate brand after it. Most people call me Clement.

I’m from Calder Hall, almost suburbia. If such a thing exists in Tobago.

I went to England, to study Business Admin and Manufacturing & Technology Management. And now I’m back here.

Bishop’s was the best school at the time I went. It’s a little bit diluted now. I never liked school. Considered it a total waste of time. I was interested in making things and there was no outlet for that energy. But I

still did well [at school].

I listen to music while I’m making chocolate, mostly local radio, mostly vintage calypso. Never Radio Tambrin! I95FM and, on weekends, 91.1 for Short Pants vintage Saturday, culture talk and Kaiso Cafe on Sundays.

Boy days in Calder Hall, we were always outside. My niece and nephew sit all day with these electronic things. They’re in Tobago on holidays and all they do is watch Disney Channel. You have to actually send them outside.

I don’t have a family myself. Not for want of trying. Just never made the “click”. Like Tony Harford, I never “passed probation”. I used to listen to his station a lot. Fantastic music!

TV is my relaxation. Just movies, the older ones. The modern day ones are nonsense, really.

I’m not a social butterfly. Little more again and I’ll probably be a recluse! I’ll probably be Rip Van Winkle pretty soon.

I live on ten acres and started clearing land to grow cocoa last year. But The dry season was so harsh and so long, I had to push the plans back. You don’t need to plant cocoa on hills, as was the thinking of the time [of Trinidad’s first cocoa boom]. You can get a microclimate just by planting buffer trees. You can basically plant cocoa anywhere where dark soils are deep and the water table is high.

The cocoa farmers’ group has rehabilitated 16 farms so far, varying in size from a hectare to 1.5 hectares. Eventually, hopefully, we’ll be the new cocoa millionaires [like the earlier Woodbrook ones]. But we don’t intend to export beans; we intend to export dark chocolate bars.

I’ve been president of the association since it started about eight years ago. It’s vibrant. We got a lot of grant funding, so when people turn up for meetings and pay their dues, they actually get resources. We got a lot of technical assistance from the Ministry [of Agriculture] and the university, Dr Darin Sukha and the Cocoa Research Unit. We were the first TT community group to win an international award for flavour, the Cocoa of Excellence Award at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2011.

I’ve been making dark chocolate, 70 per cent cocoa solids, for over nine years now. When I hit [age] 40, I started searching for something to do other than teach people how to manufacture. One day, listening to the radio, I heard [George] Umbala [Joseph] say he would follow the men on the estate as a child and pick up the pods. It clicked in my head: “But nobody makes chocolate here!” So I started doing the research, bought some small machinery and started experimenting. And it turned into a business.

You try to optimise the flavour. And hope people will like it. Over the years, I’ve been tweaking the roast profiles. And today, people like it.

The best thing about being president is understanding tobago people. They have their own mindset. I just leave them to make their own decisions about what they want to do, really. The worst thing is they go to the beat of their own drum so, many a times, they frustrate you sometimes; but they’re a good bunch of guys.

A lot of Tobagonians might be resentful of Trinis moving to Tobago. But that’s due to illiteracy, I think.

A Tobagonian is somebody whose roots are here for probably two or three generations. I trace mine three generations back.

I lived abroad for seven years and couldn’t wait to get back here. And, since I got back, have never left. Trinidad and Tobago is home.

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