Chocolate company forges on despite tragedy

October 27, 2011

CANAAN DE RIVAS – Kimberly Blackwell’s Samaritan Xocolata project will be reborn this weekend.

In February, Blackwell, a 53-year-old Canadian and 18-year Costa Rican resident, was murdered in the Southern Zone’s Osa Peninsula (TT, Feb. 5). Before her death, she laid the foundation  of  a  sustainable organic chocolate company, hiring local women to harvest cacao on four hectares of her land.

Blackwell’s best friend, Tao Watts, has since taken over the business. Friends for nearly two decades, Blackwell and Watts shared a passion for chocolate. Under Watts’ care, Samaritan Xocolata will relaunch on Sunday during the Newcomers Club of Costa Rica’s “Show and Sell” Arts and Crafts Exhibition, held at the Cariari Country Club, northwest of San José. Watts said she is determined to honor Blackwell’s memory by making the small company successful. 

“She created this whole micro-industry in the area so that she could employ her neighbors and get them to end the practice of hunting. A lot of people love her and everybody loves her chocolate,” Watts told The Tico Times after Blackwell’s death last February. 

“It was hard to decide to pursue Kimberly’s vision since every single thing about this chocolate reminded me of my friend,” Watts said during a recent Tico Times visit. “In the end, it made perfect sense for me to take over the project.” 

Living on the Osa Peninsula, however, was no longer an option for Watts. After a string of expat murders in the area, Watts decided to  move.  She  relocated  to  Canaán  de Rivas, a small town at the base of Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest peak, also in the Southern Zone. The region’s climate turned out to be more suited for chocolate production.

Samaritan Xocolata is essentially the same company that Blackwell founded six years ago, Watts said, although now it has a new  image  and  Watts’  creative  and culinary input. The small-business entrepreneur said she aims to be as environmentally conscientious as possible at every step of the process, one of Blackwell’s original business goals. 

Chocolate is wrapped in unbleached natural baking paper and recyclable colored paper that is color-coded for every flavor in Samaritan Xocolata’s catalogue. The chocolate is packaged in a biodegradable zip-close bag. Chocolate bars rest in reusable tobacco-pouch wrappings, and gift boxes are made of 95 percent cacao fiber and 5 percent recycled cardboard. 

“With love, good intention and great ingredients, we are able to produce a high- quality product. Our chocolate is also healthy because it still remains in a very pure form,” Watts said. 

Watts’ expertise in the kitchen promises to bring a feast of flavors to final products. As a self-taught chef, experimenting in the kitchen with chocolate has given Watts the opportunity to discover new and exciting flavors. Some recipes include traditional Costa Rican fruits, such as naranjilla, blackberry, guanábana and guava, as well as coffee, dulce de leche and coconut. 

The cacao that Watts used for the most recent batch of chocolate was harvested from Blackwell’s farm. Watts said she will continue using cacao harvested from the Osa Peninsula and elsewhere in the Southern Zone to maintain links with farmers in that area. 

Watts said Samaritan Xocolata products will soon be available at selected boutique hotels and gift shops across the country. Watts also plans to relaunch the company’s website at www.samaritanxocolata.com

For more on the Newcomers Club’s Show and Sell event, see http://newcomers-crshowandsell.info.

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