Iceland’s First Cacao Fruit Made Into Chocolate

Iceland cacao fruit

The first cacao fruit ever grown in Iceland was harvested and made into a chocolate bar recently, RÚV programme Landinn reports. It took 10 years of cultivation at the Horticultural School at Reykir for the cacao plants to mature and bear their first fruit. The dark chocolate made from the fruit at Omnom’s chocolate factory tasted surprisingly like coffee.

Unclear how cacao flower was fertilised

“Cacao plants start to blossom when they become mature around 7-10 years of age. We got the first blossoms three years ago, and since then the plants have gotten more and more blossoms. But it really surprised us when we saw the first fruit this summer,” Guðríður Helgadóttir, a horticulturist at the school told RÚV. “As far as we know, this is the first cacao fruit that has fully ripened in Iceland.”

The cacao seeds were planted at Reykir, located near Hveragerði, South Iceland, in 2013. In their natural environment, cacao plants are fertilised by tiny flies. “The flowers are tiny, and you can see that regular bees couldn’t do the job,” Guðríður explains. Since no such flies exist in Iceland, it’s not clear how the flower that grew into Iceland’s first cacao fruit was fertilised.

Smoky coffee flavour

“It’s really exciting,” said chocolatier and Omnom co-founder Kjartan Gíslason. “There are somewhat fewer beans than I’m used to seeing in a fully-ripe fruit, but considering that it’s the first cacao fruit that has grown in Iceland, it’s very normal that it’s not totally perfect in the first go, but we can definitely do something with it.”

The beans were fermented for nine days, and then taken to the Omnom chocolate factory, where they were roasted and hand-made into small dark chocolates. Guðríður was invited to taste the chocolate. She agreed with Kjartan’s analysis that the flavour was somewhat smoky and reminiscent of coffee, but said the chocolate was “really good!”

Disappointed in Icelandic Government’s Response to Gaza

Icelandic government Palestine protest

Locals in Iceland have held regular protests outside the Icelandic government’s cabinet meetings since the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas began on October 7. Protesters are calling on the government to condemn Israeli authorities for their actions and use its influence to call for a ceasefire in the conflict. Iceland abstained from voting on a ceasefire in an emergency meeting of the UN last month.

Call on government to condemn Israel’s actions

“We are here to tell the government of Iceland that it has not done its job in these matters, because it has only condemned Hamas. It has not yet gotten around to condemning Israel and the atrocities that are currently being committed. And the performance at the UN is of course shameful,” Hjálmtýr Heiðdal, chairman of the Iceland-Palestine Association, told RÚV reporters at this morning’s protest. A sizeable group gathered to wave flags, chant in support of Palestine, and express their disappointment towards cabinet ministers.

Iceland was the first Western country to officially recognise Palestine’s independence and support for the Palestinian cause is fairly strong among the Icelandic public. The Iceland-Palestine Association chaired by Hjálmtýr was founded in 1987.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson, who recently took on the position after resigning as Minister of Finance stated that he was not consulted on the UN General Assembly ceasefire vote. In a recent press conference, he refused to call Israel’s bombing of refugee camp Jabalia as an “attack on a refugee camp,” insisting it was “a matter of how you approach it.”

Suspend Blue Lagoon Transport Due to Threat of Eruption

Reykjanes Svartsengi power plant

Reykjavík Excursions has suspended all transport services to the Blue Lagoon due to the risk of an eruption near the site. The Blue Lagoon itself remains open to visitors, a decision Suðurnes Police Commissioner Úlfar Lúðvíksson called “irresponsible” in a RÚV interview yesterday evening. Magma is collecting some 4-5 km below the surface of the Reykjanes peninsula just west of the Blue Lagoon and Þorbjörn mountain, but so far there have been no signs of volcanic unrest.

Infrastructure and town threatened

The Reykjanes peninsula has seen three eruptions in the past three years, indicating the start of a period of volcanic activity that could last centuries. All three eruptions were preceded by earthquakes and land rise similar to the ongoing activity near the Blue Lagoon. However, land rise and earthquakes have also occurred on Reykjanes during this period without leading to an eruption.

While the previous three eruptions did not impact infrastructure or inhabited areas, the midpoint of the current activity is not only near the Blue Lagoon, it also threatens the Svartsengi Power Station and the town of Grindavík. Not only is the location closer to infrastructure, but experts have also indicated that a potential eruption from the magma intrusion could produce faster-flowing lava than the three recent eruptions on Reykjanes. This would mean inhabitants and visitors to the area would have limited time to evacuate.

Evacuation plans have been issued for the town of Grindavík and are available in English, Polish, and Icelandic.

Prioritising staff and customer safety

“Like everyone, we are trying to figure out what the scientists are saying and what the pace [of the seismic activity] is,” Reykjavík Excursions CEO Björn Ragnarsson told Vísir yesterday when asked about the decision to suspend transport to the Blue Lagoon. “We put a lot into the safety of our staff and customers and decided based on our interests as a company to make this decision today.”

On Reykjavík Excursions’ website, it is not possible to book a Blue Lagoon transfer for the coming days, though it is possible to book from November 19. The company has a notice about the seismic unrest on their Facebook page as well where they note they have suspended trips to the Blue Lagoon from noon today. The website also features a banner warning of potential volcanic unrest on Reykjanes asking customers to subscribe to SafeTravel to receive alerts.

Five volcanic systems on Reykjanes

Iceland is located on a rift between two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian. Broadly speaking, the rift cuts through Iceland diagonally from the southwest to the northeast and the movement of the plates is what causes Iceland’s volcanic and seismic activity. The rift cuts across the Reykjanes peninsula, which contains five separate volcanic systems. The magma now collecting below the surface is within the Eldvörp-Svartsengi system.

The Reykjanes peninsula alternates between periods of seismic activity lasting 600-800 years and periods of volcanic activity lasting 400-500 years. The recent eruptions indicate the start of a period of volcanic activity on Reykjanes.

Read more about the geology of the Reykjanes peninsula.