Well, we are back stateside from beautiful Bocas del Toro, Panama. During our trip, we experienced so much beauty, nature and wildlife. Days were spent exploring deserted islands and starfish filled beaches, and we still found time to get pampered at the spa.
One of our favorite adventures was a private sailing adventure on a 55 foot sailboat that took us through Dolphin Bay to an organic cacao farm and botanical garden. Ironically, the farm is owned by an adorable retired couple from San Diego…small world! Dave and his wife moved to Panama 15 years ago and created an amazing sustainable organic chocolate farm called Green Acres, carved out of the jungle. They, along with a small crew of local workers and their adopted dog, Fula, grow and process cacao the old fashioned way.
Dave took us on a tour of his farm, which is nestled in a botanical haven on the Caribbean coast. Did I mention that his farm (and home) is so remote that his closest neighbors are a boat ride away? (Well, that’s not exactly true…he recently met a small Indian community that took to the outskirts of his property to make their home.) Fula followed close behind as we hiked through ylang ylang trees, giant vanilla vines, 3 different varieties of bright ginger plants, and…oh yes, chocolate trees!
Instead of perfectly spaced rows of cacao trees, fertilized on the regular, this farm plants them sporadically throughout more than 15 species of trees. Tiny bugs called naturally fertilize the them, and if a tree stops producing healthy fruit (cacao pods) it’s carefully trimmed back and rehabilitated instead of weeded out. Dave picked a cacao pod and cracked one open for us to taste. Um, this did NOT taste like a chocolate bar! Chocolate, in its pure form, is actually quite bitter. Its also one of the most healthy foods on the planet – which is why it’s known as the ‘Food of the Gods.’
While walking through the cacao trees, we also spotted giant (but friendly) spiders, green dart frogs, rat bats, toucans, and parrots. All these creatures play an integral role in this organic farm: from weeding out excess brush to eating cacao leaf-eating insects and entertaining Dave and his crew while they tend to the cacao. After the tour of the trees and creatures…we headed over to Dave’s “factory” to learn exactly how his chocolate is made.
Stay tuned for Dave’s chocolate-making process!