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Bees !!!

Bees !!!

Hello and good day!

Here is something that almost nobody knows about chocolate.

This doesn't only apply to our chocolate.

It applies to chocolate across the board.

When you harvest cacao, cut open the pods, and scrape out the seeds, the sugary white mucilage that covers cacao seeds inside the pod attracts bees.

As such, anybody who is involved in the post-harvest processing of cacao, namely fermenting and drying, will be stung by bees many hundreds of times over the course of their working life.

There are at least a dozen bee stings involved in every bar of chocolate that you will ever eat.

In the case of our post-harvest processing facility, the situation is very acute.

Unlike much of the world's chocolate, our chocolate is made with cacao that has been processed in a centralized facility.

Most of the world's chocolate is processed by cacao farmers themselves, out on farms. This leads to inconsistent and often times very poor results.

The upside of centralized processing is that we can consistently produce superior cacao and this in turn gives us the base ingredient to make excellent chocolate.

The downside of this arrangement is that we have huge concentrations of freshly harvested cacao all in one place.

During the harvest season, our buying team brings new loads of fresh, sugary cacao into the facility every single day. The swarms of bees that occupy our facility are intense and constant.

Growing up in San Diego, CA, I was very afraid of bees.

It was my job as a kid to take out the trash, and we had a bad bumble bee infestation out back near the trash cans.

I got the bejesus stung out of me a couple of times and I developed a phobia around taking out the trash.

My parents had to brow beat me and nag me every single day.

I told them that I was scared of the bees, but they were busy and had their own schedules and priorities, and I don't think they grasped how deeply my fear ran.

It got to the point where I learned to chuck trash bags into garbage cans from 20 or 30 feet away.

My accuracy was excellent, because if I missed, I would have to run into the belly of the beast and pick up the bag in the midst of those big, fuzzy, black and yellow flying menaces.

Flash cut to 20 years later and I had traveled out to the northern Peruvian jungle to run our facility for several months while my brother took a much deserved, long vacation.

Prior to my arrival, our previous cacao processing facility had been buried in ash when a huge rice husk mountain out back caught fire and wind blew charred rice husks all over our equipment.

My brother and our team built a brand-new facility from the ground up in a matter of months, just in time for the next cacao harvest.

Working 7 days a week for months, with few breaks, in the extreme jungle heat, without seeing his wife and newborn daughter, burned my brother out physically and emotionally.

He asked me to come down and help out while he got his life back in order.

My wife took a leave of absence from work, and we made the journey.

My first day on the job, I walked into our fermentation room and the noise of a thousand bees sent cold shivers down my spine.

Nobody had told me about the bees, and I still carried around the phobia from my childhood.

My brother was there for a couple of days getting me trained up.

I pulled him aside.

"Bro, what's with all the bees?" I asked.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"What do you mean what do I mean? Why are there so many bees in here?"

"They are attracted by the mucilage."

"When do they leave?"



"Never bro."

"Will they sting us?"

"Yep. They will sting you a lot. Nothing we can do about it."

One of the main things that a gringo working out in campo has to overcome is the notion that you are soft.

First off, everybody who lives and works out there are country folks.

They are country tough.  They work with their bodies.  They are used to the heat and the mosquitos and the wildlife.

They do not scare easily, and they can work hard all day long.

Even somebody from Lima would be considered soft out there.

When you throw in the fact that I came from the United States, there was a very strong assumption that I would be a natural born wuss.

Sorry to say it like that, but that is the truth.

And I couldn't bear the idea of a bunch of young, cool, Peruvian country dudes thinking that I was a wuss.

This reminds me of the saying from Friedrich Nietzsche that "he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."

I had a "why" to live for.

I had a reason for being.

I was there to help out my brother and learn the inner workings of our family chocolate business.

The only way I could achieve those goals was to earn the respect of the team.

The "how" for that "why" was to work in a room filled with bees that were firebombing around kamikaze style and that were all hopped up on cacao mucilage.

And I had to do it while pretending not to be afraid.

Also, when I was stung, I pretended that it didn't hurt and that I didn't care at all.

I figure I was stung about 10 times that first day and a couple hundred times over the course of my stay.

Because I handled myself with courage, I was able to earn the respect of the team and my trip was a success.

I didn't let my brother or the company down.

Nowadays, I have no fear of bees whatsoever.

I was stung in the face by a wasp last summer and it didn't bother me too much.

It did hurt, but I didn't freak out or anything.

Here is why I share this.

It seems to me that the best way to overcome something scary is to link it up with a strong why.

Most people would sacrifice their own wellbeing if it meant helping a loved one in need.

If there is something you need to do and you really don't want to do it, maybe you can think about how it will benefit somebody you care for.

Maybe that will give you the juice you need to see it through.

And if that doesn't work, try thinking of your old pal Adam and the other folks in the processing facility getting the bejesus stung out of them for months on end during the harvest season.

Almost anything is less frightening and painful than that.

Thank you so much for time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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