A Japanese couple living in Fiji, making authentic Fijian chocolate for the world – that, in a sentence, is the story of Tomohito (Tomo) Zukoshi and his wife Harumi.
The owners of adi chocolates and fijiana cacao were in auckland recently participating in the coffee and chocolate show, where they launched their fijiana cacao range.
The couple’s passion for making great chocolates comes across in their eloquent words: “We work with the senses of aroma and taste and always tap into the deep well of memory and desire, then obsession … we never add chemicals but we always add love and laughter,” says Tomo. “Some people say we are chocolatiers, but we prefer to think of ourselves as conductors, leading an orchestra of brilliant natural elements that ends in a symphony of chocolate delight.”
The chocolate is made in the “world’s purest chocolate factory”, using ancient techniques and just two main local Fiji ingredients: local raw cane sugar, sundried Trinitario or Forestero or Amelonada cacao varieties (plus a hybrid) and the glorious Fijian sun on the touristy Denarau Island.
The couple’s love affair with chocolate began about 11 years ago when Tomo, Harumi their two children visited Savusavu, Fiji for a holiday in 20014. They were so enchanted by the natural beauty of the Fiji’s Islands that they returned home to Japan and promptly sold their rubber making business. The family headed back to Fiji in 2005 to open a Japanese Restaurant. But then, Tomo began noticing an abundant supply of cacao trees growing wild around the villages of Savusavu.
The science graduate that he is, he began experimenting with making chocolate and one thing led to another: eventually a good slab of chocolate was born. As the word got around, demand for Tomo’s chocolate grew outselling the famous sushi in his restaurant. High end resort like Namale and Cousteau’s came knocking and Tomo knew he was on to something.
In 2007, Tomo and Harumi bid farewell to the sushi making business and began Adi’s Chocolates. (Adi pronounced Undi is the Fijian word for Queen or Royalty). The path to success was not smooth, full of hard work, trial and error the chocolate mostly hand made. But as demand for the chocolates grew, some of the process was outsourced and farmers had to be educated on fermentation methods to maintain high quality standards.
Support came from various agencies and partnership including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Fiji Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to implement training programmes for farmers across Fiji to improve the plantation and processing methods.
Partnering with the Market Development Facility (MDF) funding from the Australian Government, they found further funding. In 2014, Adi Chocolates gained HACCP certified by Telarc supported by the ITC easing the export path into Europe. The company has successfully sold product to the USA and is looking to build presence in the New Zealand and Australian markets.