Hello and good day!
The rudimentary wood and mud bridge in the picture above has a main road on one side and a little cacao growing community on the other side.
When it rains hard, which it has for most of the last couple of cacao harvest seasons, this creek fills up, and water starts to slosh over the bridge and the mud gets very slippery.
It is unlikely that anybody would drown in this creek, but the current does start moving fast and it is powerful, and somebody could easily be swept off the bridge and hit their head on a rock.
It is a dicey little bridge.
Under normal circumstances, we would drive motorcycles across this bridge, and our team would go out to farms and help hoof cacao back to our trucks, which would be parked on the side of the main road.
But when the river is swollen and rushing over the surface of the bridge, we can't do that. It is too dangerous.In fact, we'd prefer to avoid the bridge altogether when the creek gets too full.
The reality of the situation though, is that the cacao farmers in that little village need the money and the cacao will rot on the tree unless they harvest it. So, we go over to that little bridge frequently and meet cacao farmers in the middle.
They use their animals, horses and donkeys, to haul cacao out of the jungle in plastic buckets and they walk the cacao, water rushing over their sandal clad feet, to the middle of the bridge.
Guys from our team meet them in the middle of the bridge, and one bucket at a time the hand offs are made, and the cacao filled buckets are set next to our trucks to be weighed.
After the physical work is complete, farmers come across the bridge with the help of our team, we weigh the cacao, pay the farmers in cash, and then load the freshly harvested cacao into our pick ups.
The farmers go home, gingerly navigating back across the muddy bridge, and we head out to face more, wet, hot, muddy conditions, buying and transporting cacao, before taking the day's haul back to the processing facility to start the fermentation and drying process. All of this is why I feel uncomfortable in a chocolate shop that looks like a jewelry store.
Chocolate is a blue collar food.
It requires hard, taxing, physical labor. It requires cerebral and delicate work too.
A fine palate is needed to discern flavor notes and properly calibrate roasting profiles. But even this happens in the context of roasting machines that require a gear head to operate and maintain.
Most of the folks who have great palates in the chocolate making process are also machine junky, engineering types. They need to understand the machines so that they can translate their vision for the chocolate into tangible results.
By the way, there is nothing wrong with white collar computer types. I am a trained accountant and I've spent hours every day for the last twenty years sitting at a computer doing accounting work.
Its just that making chocolate ain't that.
You can hold cacao in your hands. It exists in the real world, not the digital world. Buckets filled up with cacao are heavy. Cacao ferments and creates vinegar and acid. It gets hot and stings your eyes when you crouch into a fermenter box to mix the cacao each day.
Chocolate is heated and grinded and cooled and molded and shipped. It sloshes around in big mixing tanks and conches. It is loaded into trucks and boats and then has be unloaded with liftgates, pallet jacks, and strong backs.
Kitchen work is blue collar too. You are on your feet all day. You have to understand machines, and heat, and food engineering.
I think one of the big failings of the last 30 years is that we've forgotten where everything comes from. We've come to believe that digital technology can solve most problems.
This is just not the case. Strong backs and sweaty brows are just as important as they ever were.I doubt that will ever change.
Apps don't carry cacao across bridges. You can't weigh cacao and pay cash to cacao farmers over a video call. The huge servers sitting out in deserts that comprise the "cloud" are made of material that has to be mined out of the ground.
Somebody somewhere is sweating.
And in the long run, the people who understand and embrace reality are the ones who will be most prepared to succeed in the future.
Brawn and brains must always work together.
That is all that I have for you today. Thank you so, so much for your time.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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