PRI’s The World
January 06, 2017 · 5:30 PM EST
Artisanal marabu charcoal from Cuba has a reputation for burning long and clean, making it well-suited for fueling ovens to bake pizzas and bread.
The first shipment of 40 tons of the stuff produced by worker-owned cooperatives across Cuba should arrive in the US later this month.
“The charcoal itself is a very unique product,” says Scott Gilbert, the entrepreneur who cut the charcoal deal.
“Marabu charcoal is produced by burning the marabu plant, which is a very invasive weed that basically clogs most of the agricultural fields in Cuba,” Gilbert says. “You can’t easily cut it with a machete. It’s very hard to get rid of it, but these Cuban cooperatives have found a way to cut the marabu, burn it, and create charcoal that’s prized around the world and has been sold in Europe for years but just not in the US.”
That struck Gilbert as a business opportunity — not only to introduce Americans to the charcoal product, but to help Cuba’s farmers and worker cooperatives. Marabu bushes and trees soon take over fields and pastures if they aren’t cut back.
Read the full story and listen to Scott Gilbert’s interview on PRI’s The World.