Recently I spent four weeks in an indigenous village in Panamá, called Silico Creek. It is located in the comarca Ngöbe-Bugle, which constitutes one out of four autonomically governed indigeneous districts in the country. Here I discovered the real value of chocolate!
Surrounded by cacao plantations the inhabitants make their living basically out of agriculture, selling cacao and growing food on their small plantations. Living within the Ngöbe community I shared their basic way of life, helped with their daily tasks, and got to know about growing cacao and producing 100% organic chocolate in the most native and traditional manner. Working on the farms, maintaining the plantations and harvesting, under hot and humid climatic conditions is a physical challenge. Firsthand I got to know that it is a long way from the seed to the chocolate.
It takes at least three years from seeding to harvesting for the first time. The cacao process is a communal event, a lot of helping hands are needed. Two days on the plantation, havesting and separating the seeds are followed by 7 days of fermentation and 5 to 7 days of drying the seeds. Finally roasting, peeling, grinding the seeds and preparing them as chocolate take another day of processing.
A family in here will harvest about 50-80 kilogram of cacao beans, which results in 20 to 50 kilograms fermented and dried seeds. Considering the price of (at the moment) 1,10 USD per pound this is only little reward for such an amount of work behind the scenes. Chocolate is really the food of gods and we are blessed, being able to apreciate this delicacy in the developed countries!
Follow the photographs to receive an impression of the whole cacao process!