Dark Chocolate: PART 1 – Cacao Farm via Naia Resort & Spa
Considering we here love a ‘farm-fresh’ twist, one excursion and experience that I highly recommend while staying at the Naia Resort & Spa was the trip to the Organic Cacao Farm, which also led to an authentic Chocolate Making experience just down the road in the tiny village. If you’ve ever been interested in dark chocolate, then it starts here, at the cacao farm.
The farmer had been here for generations, tending to the cacao trees tirelessly, and admittedly without a vacation (ever). You see, farming is a 24/7 job, and most farmers can’t take a day off. He reminded me of the hard work it took, and that’s an understatement.
The best way to understand the uniqueness of this experience is to hear it from the farmers’ mouth himself. So, please make sure you watch our videos with him! He explained how he uses no pesticides, nothing but pure organic and sustainable farming is going on here.
Before 1800 BC, the Mayans discovered the gift of the Cacao trees. The Mayans say it came from the heavens itself, yes – the gods from the skies as gifts. There are no other trees that are related to these cacao trees on the planet, either. They are an anomaly.
The work that’s gone in to cultivate each seed from the pod is astounding – it’s not only dried, but then roasted, ground, becoming a bit oily which is then removed, and at that point you can add a bit of an oil as well as a sweetener back in (or not as in the case of the ancestral Mayans). Then, it would finally become something incredibly rich and delicious, and a delicacy. The cacao seeds themselves were very expensive and hard to acquire, thus hot chocolate, and hot teas made with chocolate, was served only to the most wealthy, elevated members of society of the Mayan culture. A true delicacy that was initially served bitter, but later we adapted it to be a more sweet version.
While touring this farm, I learned from our enthusiastic, energetic farmer that the cacao pods grow at the base of the tree, which is really unique as every other fruit is typically grown off of the higher branches and limbs. Not so here. Small flowers grow in a matter of 3 months and produce cacao pods, which are then harvested, and of two colors. Green or red. Then more of the hard work begins.
Once picked, they are then split, and note the white gooey substance in the middle, which surrounds the beans and tastes like mango, which is also used to be later produced into wines and other by-products. The individual cacao seeds are removed from this sticky substance by hand, placed in wooden boxes for six days to ferment. This is the part that gives the dark chocolate its rich flavors, unique aromas, and this is essential to the process. Then, they are laid across large tarps to dry for several days. Once dried, they’re bundled up into large bags and taken into town, sold to begin the process for creating cacao.
The pure dark chocolate is filled with healthy micronutrients, and serotonin boosting, depression fighting natural drugs that make you, as the farmer said, healthy and happy. The farmer quoted so many health benefits and how dark chocolate is something to be enjoyed everyday and treasured because of the strong anti-oxidants that help fight so many diseases and ailments.
However, it is only the pure dark chocolate – made organically and without pesticides – that you really can sink your teeth into when it comes to immeasurable health benefits.
If you want to see what it is like to make chocolate, then check out the next article where I literally rolled up my sleeves with a Mayan chocolatier who used a slab / stone that was centuries old.