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Expedition: Cocoa Tour

Cocoa Tour
On day 3 we left Santa Domingo and embarked on a whistle stop tour of cacao production. Our tour was actually a backwards affair as we visited the processing factory first before popping into the Block 8 Conacado warehouse where the cacao is fermented and dried. And finally once in La Laguna, our host village for the next two weeks, we were able to visit the cacao farms where our homestay families grew and harvested cacao trees.
Processing Factory
The moment we arrived at the factory we were offered the most amazing hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It was warm, spicy, chocolate-y and thick. After spending a moment savouring the flavour I realised that the spices were very similar to that in Chai tea. There were delicious undertones of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. I later found out that they also add oats to the chocolate to give that thick texture and earthy taste – a tip I am sure to test out back home!

I’m not afraid to admit that I did go back for second helpings
Feeling suitably loved up with the warm chocolate in our bellies we gathered around to listen to a detailed talk about the production at the factory converting the dried cocoa bean into liquid, powder or butter ready for distribution to companies such as Green & Black’s.

Various processing results
Next we took a tour of the whole factory and production line. It was amazing to see how much work it took to process the dried cocoa bean to create top quality cocoa powder and butter.

The group donning white coats and sexy hygiene hats

Liquid cacao
Factory Worker filling sacks with cocao

Conacado – Block 8

Concacado is the Fairtrade cooperative in the Dominican Republic that buys the organic and Fairtrade cacao from farmers, ferments and dries them. Conacado also acts as a social agent helping to reinvest the Fairtrade premium back into the Community. 
Block 8 is where the farmers from La Laguna, our host village, send their cacao. We listened to Vasillio as he described the process of receiving the cacao from the farmers and we were invited to witness a truck-load of cacao being unloaded into the fermentation bays as well as seeing the large drying houses.
Vasillio from Conacado with Julian, our Project Manager translating
Fermenting beans
Drying the fermented beans
Large drying houses
Conacado worker sealing the bags for shipping
We were given some dried beans to taste – you crack open the shell and and nibble on the nibs. It is incredibly bitter but the glossy colour is fantastic. Looks like a good quality product to me!

Nibs
Finally, Vasillio explained how one pod of cacao provides for just one 37% bar of Green & Black’s chocolate. It is amazing how precious this commodity really is.

One pod to one bar
  1. Mmmmmmmmmmm yumyumyumyumyum! Great little start(ish) to your time away! How better to start with the good ol' yummy in your tummy stuff. I'm not sure if you know yogi tea, but they do a choco flavour tea, which is made with the cocoa shells and lots of different spices, like you mentioned above. It's very very yummy. My most favourite of all teas!

    Can't wait for the next part!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I knew roughly the process for getting the bits ready for chocolate, but to see it all in pictures sort of solidifies it in your brain, you know?

    Any trip that starts with hot chocolate is a good trip. Oh, and I really like cocoa (cacao?) nibs! THe flavours do sound very chai-ish.

  3. Wow. That drink sounds amazing. I may need to see if I cna find a way to try to make it. It all sounds so interesting.

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