A report by Bianca Bujan for The Vancouver Sun.
Speeding along a single-lane side street in the back of a white taxi van, we weave around cyclists, construction workers, and oncoming traffic, when our driver suddenly shouts out, “Ah, there’s a red car, this must be the place!”
We look at each other perplexed as he slams on the breaks, and begins to back up through a partially-parted rusty double gate, onto what looks like the front yard of someone’s home. With no signage, the wee white house looks nothing like a fromage factory, which we soon discover is actually based in a tiny shed that sits further back on the property.
As we approach the small structure, two young men emerge, wearing matching Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses shirts. They greet us, and wave us into their Bajan burrow — the only place where cheese is made on the entire island of Barbados.
Local Bajans (the people of Barbados) love the savoury dishes that are unique to the Caribbean island — pig tails, fish cakes, and pudding and souse — but notable culinary creators are breaking the mold on the local food scene, bringing new flavours to the tropical table.
From a back-road Barbadian cheese-making shack to a decadent dark chocolate made on-island, these businesses are spicing up the “culinary capital of the Caribbean,” introducing new, groundbreaking offerings — all made, sold, and consumed on the island of Barbados.
Back-road Bajan cheese factory makes waves in the dairy industry
Pinching the piece of unnamed cheese between my thumb and index finger, I hesitate before taking a bite. The stench of the experimental cheese fills my nostrils as I chew slowly, taking in the unique flavours as I swallow my mouthful.
Immediately, I can taste the flavours of the scotch bonnet pepper jack cheese, with hints of drunken cheddar — the two cheese varieties that have been combined and aged for a year to create this curious concoction.
“Hmm, it’s still not quite right…” mumbles the young man standing beside me. Wearing a questionable grin, cheesemaker Darren Niles (one of a team of only three people), slides the sample aside, and continues to work the mound of goat cheese that sits in a bowl beside him.
Darren and his workmate Kevon Hayes are giving us a private cheesemaking demo, and as they work quietly and carefully to perfect their latest batch of cheese, their passion for the process is clearly evident.
Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses, the island’s only artisanal cheese manufacturing company, is driven by a desire to transform the dairy industry in Barbados, striving to move away from an import dependent resource, to a locally-produced, high-quality product. They work to support dairy farmers who have been under siege from falling fresh milk consumption and pervasive price reductions, and offer sustainable employment opportunities for the island’s youth.
Carrying on a family tradition, Hatchman’s founder, Andrea Power, began her practice by milking cows and making butter, just as her father had done in her younger years. With the limited resources and hot temperatures of Barbados, cheese production seemed to be an impossible task. Determined to change the dwindling dairy industry, which is dominated by international imports, Andrea set out to prove that anything is possible.
She travelled to France and observed several cheesemakers to learn their skills, and then took what she learned back to her hometown. Her brand is now gracing the shelves of supermarkets around the island, and adding flavours to the dishes of some of the top restaurants in Barbados.
Named after her father, Asquith “Hatchman” Power, Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses is making waves in the Caribbean, and receiving recognition on a global scale.
Offering melt-in-your-mouth cheese varieties, including rosemary goat cheddar, plain, herbed, and sorrel goat cheese, scotch bonnet pepper jack (a personal favourite), and goat milk blue cheese (the first-ever blue cheese introduced on the island), Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses are a must-try for visitors who are looking for a taste of the local food scene.
You won’t find this cheese factory on a map, however visitors can call and book an exclusive demo during off-season hours — just be sure to hitch a ride from a local Bajan who knows the neighbourhood.
Chocolate factory adds sweet new flavours to the culinary capital of the Caribbean
Surrounded by twelve tour guests donning white hairnets and silly grins, I hear nothing but moans and grunts fill my ears. My group is tasting several varieties of decadent dark chocolate while I watch on enviously.
As someone who suffers from a severe chocolate allergy, a visit to a factory that produces the confection that most people crave may seem like a senseless idea, but the aroma, witnessing the traditional chocolate making process, and revelling in the results of years of hard work by Derrick Hastick, founder and chief chocolate maker at Agapey Chocolate Factory, make my chocolate factory tour a true treat.
Hailing from Montreal, Derrick moved to Ontario when he was only 13 years old. After losing his job and selling his house, the Canadian-born chemical engineer went through a “roofless methodical thought pattern” that eventually led to his launching the first-ever chocolate factory on the island of Barbados.
He saw the idea as recession-proof, and taking on the niche angle of producing dark chocolate on an island where the sweet was only imported and rarely seen on shop stands, seemed like an obvious recipe for success.
Agapey, meaning “love” in Greek and Latin, is a hub for Caribbean chocolate production — where the chocolate is made entirely from scratch. Using a very rare antique cocoa roasting machine shipped in from Germany, Derrick remains devoted to using traditional chocolate making methods to produce the most decadent dark chocolate in the market.
As he shares his personal journey from “Canadian chemical engineer” to “Bajan chocolate maker,” Derrick walks us through the seven-step chocolate production process. From roasting the seeds of the cocoa beans, to removing the acidity through a roller refiner, to tempering the chocolate, the process is long and tedious.
The finished bars are hand-wrapped by a small staff of only four employees, and distributed to supermarkets and hotels around the island, as well as to New Hampshire — a newly-added U.S. destination.
The unique collection of dark chocolate confections come in island-inspired flavours such as Rum Caramel (a group favourite), Coconut, Vodka Ginger, and Cocoa Hispaniola (a founder favourite).
Factory tours are available to the public year-round, and the beautifully-branded Bajan chocolate bars make a great take-home keepsake (complete with cooling kits for long flights home).