4 Dec 2015

Sun-charged waka full of beans

From New Zealand Society, 3:30 pm on 4 December 2015

By Daniela Maoate-Cox

At the end of the rows of white metal masts bobs one brown wooden one.

Ropes stretch from its sails down to the deck where the head of a turtle carved into the wood can just be seen under a pile of hessian sacks.

Each one holds 30 kilograms of cocoa beans, but the crew grab them with ease and pass them off the deck to bicycle mounted volunteers waiting to pedal the beans away.

After a year of planning, six months of korero and a three month journey, the Fijian waka Uto ni Yalo has delivered a tonne of the beans, grown in Bougainville, to Wellington’s Chaffers Dock.

Unlike its fossil fuel dependent neighbours, the Fijian waka relies solely upon the wind and the sun to power it across the ocean.

It’s been a long journey for those on board the Uto ni Yalo who set out from Fiji three months earlier on what should have been a six-week trip.

Flying or commercially shipping the cargo would have been faster but that conflicted with the values of those behind the voyage, the Wellington Chocolate Factory’s Gabe Davidson and Rochelle Harrison.

The Wellington Chocolate Factory's Gabe Davidson and Rochelle Harrison. Oct 2015

The Wellington Chocolate Factory's Gabe Davidson and Rochelle Harrison. Photo: RNZ/ Koroi Hawkins

The idea took root over a year earlier when a bag of Bougainville cocoa beans was handed to Gabe by a chocolate addicted customer.

“I didn’t even know where Bougainville was, I thought it was potentially somewhere in New Zealand,” he says.

“But the quality of the beans was high, it had some smoke taint, but I could see there was an opportunity there to uncover a rare and unique cocoa flavour.”

Gabe says the beans could rival those produced in West Africa and South America and more craft chocolate makers should team up with Pacific growers.

So he put his money where his mouth is and set about finding a way to sustainably ship a tonne of the Bougainville beans to the factory in Wellington without any idea of how to sail or a boat to sail on.


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