CamayosFair trade chocolate like no other
Around six years ago, in 2017, the seeds of a deliciously chocolaty story were planted, one which starts in the fertile soil of Cameroon and makes it all the way to the village of Chainaz-les-Frasses in Haute-Savoie. The wonderful story specifically took root in a grove of cocoa trees in the village of Ayos, where Nicole was born and raised. She and her husband, Fabrice Petitgenet, wanted to contribute to developing her childhood village.
Everything fell perfectly into place for them to revive cocoa tree farming in the area.
From cocoa bean to chocolate bar
When the couple met with master chocolatier Willy Ferrier, who trained at the legendary Paul Bocuse Institute, all questions about the next step simply melted away. At the time, few chocolate makers processed the cocoa beans on their own. And today, only a small handful of chocolate makers in France process their own beans.
Throwing caution to the wind, Willy (Wonka!) decided to help make the somewhat crazy idea a reality. He was convinced that chocolate’s true value comes from the raw material itself. Step by step they roasted, conched, tempered… And three weeks later, 400 chocolate bars were made. With no brand name, no packaging, no distribution network, they needed to create everything from scratch.
© Camayos / Fabrice Petitgenet at a plantation in Ayos
A healthy dose of imagination and one crowdfunding campaign later, they launched Camayos. When Gaylord Pedretti offered them a booth for free at the High Five Festival in Annecy, they enjoyed their first opportunity to make a name for their chocolate. Although Camayos only had one flavor at the time, they sold 1500 bars during the popular weekend festival: a win-win for everyone.
With local shops filling their shelves and customers won over by the taste, the range expanded to three different bars. When it comes to ingredients, there are no additives whatsoever: Camayos bars are made with chocolate beans and sugar, nothing else. Just as important, their fair price reflects the true value of every link in the chain, from grower to distributor. Using natural and artisanal farming, as well as a transformation process that respects the high-quality of the precious raw material, the finished product overflows with taste as well as ethical values.
“We don’t claim or even try to please everyone. We make chocolate in our own way and with its own unique taste. For us, chocolate is like wine and cheese and should be the fruit of a specific area and expertise,” Fabrice explains with both passion and humility.
© Camayos / A Camayos chocolate bar
Chocolate at heart
Camayos transforms its beans in to several different types of chocolate bars: dark, coffee, milk, and even a type of white chocolate to add a touch of sweetness into the mix. The beans are picked, fermented, and dried at the plantations in Ayos, and the cocoa butter pressed cold, without any additives, brings out its wide range of tastes and aromas: Camayos now makeseight types of chocolate bars, including crunchy and special Christmas and Easter-only creations that showcase the purity of the bean. The chocolate and peanut spread is made with just three ingredients using a 100% artisanal recipe. The coffee and peanuts are also grown in Ayos, making it easy to diversify the product range.
Camayos made five metric tons of chocolate this year, and plans to make eight or nine tons of chocolate next year, continuing to build its success on a foundation of essentials.
© Camayos / Drying cocoa beans in the village of Ayos
Fabrice and the chocolate factory
Since Fabrice stopped working in construction to focus all of his time and effort on the Camayos adventure, he spends three to four months per year in Ayos. While the Camayos crew in France consists of just three people, a dozen people work on the farms in Cameroon during the off season, and up to eighty people work for the company to pick beans during the harvest. The harvest season extends from the end of August through the end of December. In January, they spend 24/7 making cocoa butter, using 50% beans and 50% cocoa powder. And starting in January 2024, the cocoa powder will also be made in Ayos.
© Camayos / Fabrice Petitgenet and the cocoa tree nursery
Ethics and chocolate
Staying true to its roots, Camayos continues to work to grow and develop the village of Ayos. Since 2017, developments include a new school, seven small bridges that provide vehicle access to the village, and four wells in remote areas as part of a larger project to supply drinking water to inhabitants in the area. A new medical clinic is also under construction. By working alongside and with village inhabitants, the projects taking shape provide locals with better living conditions.
Every year, Camayos donates a portion of its revenues to these projects, or purchases uniforms and school supplies. Beyond that, the company encourages everyone to collaborate and work together for a common cause.
Showcasing the true value of every stakeholder in the process is one of the core values of this high-quality product. From growing, to harvesting, to production and sales, the Camayos story is one of chocolate with a distinct taste and a strong identity. The soil in Cameroon, the energy and hard work from the citizens of Ayos, the expertise and enthusiasm of master chocolatier Willy Ferrier offer only a glimpse into the deep-held commitment made by Nicole and Fabrice Petitgenet.
© Camayos / Weighing sacks filled with cocoa beans
- © Camayos
Journalist: Gaëlle Tagliabue
Translation: Darin Reisman