Our hike through the cacao farm begins with a chance encounter with the (at least in our family) much talked about "Bullet Ant". Yes, (according to the cacao farmers) if you are bitten it feels like you've been shot with a bullet!
It is not just the animals in the jungle that have ingenious ways of protecting themselves!
We find a harlequin poison dart frog under the drying cacao pods.
"I learned that cacao pods don't fall from the tree if no one eats them. They turn brown and get hard. The seeds need to be taken by an animal to the ground in order to be planted." E.P.
"These are pods that are waiting to be put through the fermentation process." E.P.
"You can eat the inside of the cacao pod. The seeds have a layer of goopy stuff that you can eat and it's really yummy. If you suck the outside it is good but the inside seed is soooooooooooooooooooooooo bitter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" E.P.
"This is the inside of a raw cacao seed. You can have the choice of eating the raw seed or making it into chocolate. If I were you I would choose the chocolate making but if you like bitterness (like I do also) you should eat the inside seed." E.P.
"After the seeds are fermented they go through a drying process that takes usually 8-10 days." E.P.
"This is the time that you get to eat every chocolate and chose whose cacao seeds taste best." E.P.
Paul, our guide and the owner/visionary of caribeans stressed throughout the tour that good chocolate is absolutely dependent on great cacao and credits his farmers with his success. The name of each farmer and the location of their farm is above each cholocate that we sample.
"This is where you get to eat with spices and you get to chose which chocolate with which spices taste best. My favorite was the Felipe chocolate with coffee and salt and with ginger. It was very yummy. I liked it so much because I like spice and coffee ground up." E.P.
"What I liked about the tour is that Paul has tremendous respect for the importance of all the knowledge that the indigenous people have shared with him regarding cacao. I also appreciate that he is an inventor at heart and shared his passion to innovate very clearly with the children on the tour (as you will see from the pictures of his chocolate factor). He made it very clear that good chocolate has very little to do with fancy machinery and everything to do with great cacao and great relationships with indigenous wisdom and cacao farmers." Momma
This is the view from where we were tasting the chocolate. We got hot chocolate with spicy peppers. It was super yummy.
They wouldn't let us go on with the tour until all of the chocolate was gone.
They have Willy Wonka as a guest of honor in their chocolate factory.
Paul told us how he invented most of the machines that he needed to process the cacao into chocolate.
We got to taste the chocolate that was liquid and ready to be put into the molds.
"This is a picture of me and Alister demonstrating how you temper the chocolate and I am stirring with Paul's Mom's spatula and Alister is telling me what temperature it is." E.P.
"This was my favorite part of the tour because this is where you could see Paul's passion at its peak. He told us the story about his first bars crumbling from their molds and then learning about the process of tempering - which has everything to do with growing crystals. It was SUPER fascinating!" Momma
"Thank you Caribeans for the sweet time!" Baanko