Hello and good day!
The fellow in the picture above is named Jorge.
He is using a hand scale to measure how much cacao we are buying from this farm.
On average, a bucket like that weighs about 40 pounds and we'll buy between 5 and 10 buckets on a normal farm pickup.
The buckets will be loaded in the back of a pickup truck with other buckets from other farms and at the end of the day the entire load will be driven back to our post-harvest processing facility.
Unlike almost any other chocolate company in the world, we buy cacao wet. This means that as soon as cacao seeds are scraped out of the cacao pods, we own them.
We buy cacao still covered in its mucilage.
We do this so that we can control the entire post-harvest process, because post-harvest processing is one of the key determinants of how good a chocolate can taste.
And we want our chocolate to be as good as it can possibly be.
Since the world commodity price is based on dried, exportable cacao, and since we pay our cacao farm partners a derivative of the world commodity price, we are forced to do some conversions in our calculations.
The fact that the world commodity price is based on dried exportable cacao lets you know that almost every other company in the world purchases dried cacao.
The normal way of doing things is for farmers to do the fermenting and drying themselves. This leads to great heterogeneity in processing, and it also suffers from a terrible incentive structure.
Whether the cacao is well processed or not, farmers get the same price, the world commodity price.
If there is no premium paid for doing a good job, and if you are poor and farming several crops simultaneously to make ends meet, you will obviously opt to economize your time by not doing work that you aren't paid for.
A wet cacao seed loses about 70% of its weight during processing.
Most of the weight is water weight.
We have to take that into account when calculating the premium we pay over the world market price.
Our cacao farm partners understand and agree to this calculation.
It took a while in the beginning to get buy in for this style of payment because it was so different from the industry norm.
But it is no longer a sticking point, and it hasn't been for more than a decade.
The weigh and pay proceeds, farm by farm, day by day, during the eight-month harvest season.
We are in the middle of the harvest season now and it will continue until August.
It is my brother Brian's job to manage the harvest.
It is my job to service our customers and spread the word here in the United States.
Along those lines, I was invited last night to do a pop up at the SpaceX campus in Redmond, WA about 25 minutes up the road from our kitchen.
I went with the goal of letting people know about our shops.
I didn't realize it until yesterday, but Starlink satellite manufacturing is happening on that campus, right here in our backyard.
The party was a German themed employee appreciation party with a polka band, bratwurst, and beer.
I don't usually go anywhere at night because I prefer to spend time with my family during the evenings.
However, this opportunity seemed too good to pass up, both as a business opportunity, and as a chance to spend time on site at one of the most cutting-edge companies in the world.
The folks at SpaceX were extremely hospitable and friendly.
I asked if I could bring one of my sons along with me to help man the table so that I wouldn't completely miss out on family time.
They said it was fine and they gave my kid food to eat and a swag bag to take home.
We watched the party and listened to really loud accordion and tuba music and gave out samples and sold chocolate.
Nobody thought it was strange that my boy was the only kid there.
I didn't come across a single unkind person in that entire place, and we saw a couple thousand people I'd guess.
Even after so many years in the chocolate business, I still find it magical that our chocolate starts out in the jungle on trees as a fruit, then goes through a long and complex journey of processing and manufacturing, during which time it travels ten thousand miles from Peru to Europe and then back to Issaquah, WA and then we have it sitting on a table for people to easily pick up and enjoy.
Likewise, it is astounding that human beings can build rockets and send satellites into space.
My wife and I reminisced the other day about how only 16 or 17 years ago, we used to call her father in Peru just once a week. To call Peru required a trip to the liquor store to buy an international calling card and it was expensive.
$10 only got you about 45 minutes.
Now we can do an unlimited amount of free video calls using a device that we carry around in our pockets.
This is made possible by satellites.
I could see last night how good food, music, and comradery will make a large work force more productive.
Good hard work requires good nourishment and an occasional recharging of our spirit.
Chocolate was a nice addition to the recharging schema.
Buidling rockets and satellites is hard work.
To make good chocolate requires a lot of hard work as well.
And so does cooking enough food for such a large gathering.
And so does playing polka music for four hours straight, as the hard-working German band did last night.
Each of us, every living human being, is caught up and participating in an international web of good and productive work.
Folks living in jungles all over the world will benefit from Starlink internet access and likewise, the people at SpaceX benefit from the agricultural produce of jungle farmland.
Good, hard, productive work is internationally symbiotic.
It lifts us all up together and it was refreshing and beneficial for me to see a firsthand reminder of that.
I was also able to teach my son the important lesson that with age comes wisdom.
At the beginning of the night, I promised my son that somebody was going to drink too much and spend wildly at our table.
"How do you know poppy?" he asked.
"I've been around a long-time son. Just watch."
Sure enough, as the party wore down, a very sweet man, more than half in the bag, who was carefully focusing on his steps so as not to lose his balance and fall in the middle of a work function, came walking by.
He was a young, heavy-set gentleman, with a ponytail and a beard.
He tried our samples and bought a couple of bags.
Then he looked at my boy and looked back at me.
It was dark and the band was still playing loudly in the background.
"This is your son?" he yelled.
"Yes, this is my son. He came to help me." I yelled back.
The yelling continued.
"A hard worker huh?"
"For his age, yes."
"Come here boy, I want to give you something. Buy yourself something with this."
He reached into his wallet and dropped a thirty-dollar tip on my son.
We both gave the man a hug and thanked him whole heartedly.
When the man walked away, I gave my son a wink.
I leaned down and spoke into his ear.
"You see son? I've been around. I know how the world works."
I don't know that I've ever seen a more sincere look of respect on my son's face than in that moment.
It's funny how some lessons hit a kid harder than others.
Hopefully he won't forget that I usually know what I'm talking about.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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