Green Acres Chocolate: Bocas Del Toro, Panama

After wandering for more than an hour through the beautiful gardens and jungle that is Green Acres Chocolate Farm, we arrived at our final destination: the chocolate factory. Factory is a very loose term here, mostly because it consists of 3 sheds.

The first shed is open air and houses the first phase of the chocolate making process. Harvested cacao pods are opened and emptied of the white fruit inside. Remember we mentioned that this fruit looks little like a combination of lychee and passion fruit. Inside each white “berry” is a cacao “bean.” Once removed, they are placed in large wooden pallets and covered with white cloth. Dave lets them hang out in these pallets while nature’s fermentation process work its magic. During this process, which takes about a week, the white fruit ferments and falls off the inner bean, eventually drying and returning to the earth (sometimes providing a nice lunch for bugs and other small creatures.)

After this happens, the cacao beans are ready for their sunbath. The second shed is actually a giant table with a retractable metal roof. The beans are spread out on said table and left to dry in the sunlight all day. They are covered every night and in case of rain (which is known to happen from time to time in a rainforest.) Dave tells us that this drying process takes a few weeks (longer in rainy season.) We broke open one of the beans drying on the table and were surprised to find MORE fruit inside. Dave let us know that this fruit is the chocolate that gets processed – for such a special food it certainly is well protected!

The final stop is the third shed, also known as Dave’s office. We snickered a bit about ‘retired” Dave still having a corner office with “ocean view.” This is an actual building and not open air, although the windows stay open while he works to process the cacao beans into chocolate bars and cocoa nibs. Dave explains to us that most of the chocolate we eat at home isn’t actually chocolate. In order to be called chocolate, there needs to be at least 10% percent chocolate liquor (real chocolate) present. Most of the big name bars and chocolate products contain trace amounts of chocolate and huge amounts of soy lecithin, hydrogenated oil and sugar (YUM.) Dave’s bars are 100% cocoa.

He removes the reddish brown fruit that is hidden inside each bean, grinds and cooks them into a liquor of sorts. This is then tempered, poured into chocolate bar molds, baked until solid, cooled and wrapped for the finished product! The best part is that Dave uses solar energy in addition to electricity to precess his chocolate bars. Each one is a labor of love, and further proof that chocolate in its pure form really is a perfect food.

The natural oil from chocolate can be separated out while processing the chocolate liquor. When this happens, you get cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Cocoa butter is one of the best natural moisturizers for the skin due to its high levels of essential fatty acids and natural antioxidant property. It remains solid yet melts at body temperature.

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