CHOCOLATE MAKER, ENVIRONMENTALIST
15-4-1966 - 1-6-2013
Mott Green, who has died in an accident aged 47, was a "barefoot businessman" who founded the Grenada Chocolate Company, a Grenada-based "handcrafted from tree to bar" organic chocolate co-operative that produces some of the best chocolate in the world.
The world chocolate market is rife with middlemen making a fast buck at the expense of cocoa workers, including child labourers. No such concerns trouble customers of the Grenada Chocolate Company, which Green founded in 1999 on the principles of organic production, environmental sustainability and "non-exploitative" employment practices.
Green, a wiry, blue-eyed idealist, had spent his youth in squats in the US working with activist groups before moving to Grenada in 1987 because "I felt good things would happen here". He built a bamboo hut in the jungle, equipped with a homemade solar hot-water system, and soon fell in love with the local cocoa "tea" — a beverage made with roughly ground cocoa beans. "For 10 years I drank the cocoa tea, and I used to think, one day we can make chocolate from this," he recalled.
After years of developing small-scale solar-powered versions of industrial chocolate-making equipment, he set up the Grenada Chocolate Company with two friends and began producing chocolate from organic beans. Working with local small farmers, whom he paid well over twice the going rate for their beans, and up to 50 factory employees, all of whom earned the same wage as he did, he dried cocoa beans in the sun; processed the beans into chocolate in a series of Heath Robinson machines; packaged the finished product; and assembled an international network of environmentally friendly distributors, including volunteer cyclists in the Netherlands and (a recent addition), a trade-wind-powered square-rigged brigantine, the Tres Hombres.
The Grenada Chocolate Company was a tiny operation, based in a few cramped rooms on the first floor of an unremarkable yellow and apricot house situated in the cocoa groves of Grenada's rainforest. With a weekly output of less than 135 kilograms, Grenada Chocolate Company chocolate is some of the most expensive in the world. But it won many fans for its bold flavours, which Green attributed to Grenada's volcanic soils, and the walls of his factory featured numerous awards in the category of best dark organic chocolate bar from the London-based Academy of Chocolate. Nothing Like Chocolate, a documentary about the company directed by Kum-Kum Bhavnani, was released last year.
Green was born David Lawrence Friedman in Washington DC on April 15, 1966, and brought up on Staten Island. He eventually became known as Mott (a Grenadan version of his nickname, "Moth"), and adopted the surname Green to reflect his commitment to environmentalism.
After dropping out of the University of Pennsylvania, he spent much of his 20s squatting with a community of anarchists in abandoned homes in west Philadelphia and later in east Manhattan. It was at this time he honed his technical skills to supply his companions with basic amenities. Among other things, he re-routed mains electricity supplies; converted a VW bus to run on electricity; and later made solar-powered hot-water showers.
In Grenada, Green lived at his factory full-time, sleeping in a workroom. He died after being electrocuted while working on solar-powered machinery for cooling chocolate.