Hello and good day!
Two teams work in the facility where we process cacao.
There is the field team. And there is the processing team.
The field team goes out in a caravan of motorcycles and pickup trucks to buy cacao from cacao farms.The processing team stays at the facility and carries out all of the necessary steps needed to turn out delicious chocolate.
Every morning, the team meets at the facility around 8am. The entire group gets together and discusses the day's plans.
Then the field team gets ready to head out into campo.When you are riding on a motorcycle, winding to and fro along a wet, dirt, jungle road in the rain, there are several implements you'll want to take with you.
You'll definitely want a thick plastic poncho.A shovel to dig out your wheels if you drive into a deep muddy patch.A machete to cut your way through the forest if you have to hike out to a remote farm. Goggles. Gloves. A fanny pack for cash. A hand scale for weighing cacao.A calculator or a pen and pad for calculating the amount owed.
]Unlike a lot of other cacao buying companies, we pay cash on the barrel for cacao purchases.A first aid kit in case you fall off your motorcycle and get scraped up and you need some disinfectant and a band aid. And a sack lunch.
Once the supply check is complete, one of the most exciting things happens. Six motorcycles carrying twelve hard working, brave, adventurous young men are fired up.
When those motorcycle motors start to roar, it sends shivers down your spine. The smell of the exhaust is in the air. You watch the caravan drive up the hill and disappear around a corner into the canyon.
Right after they leave, the processing team gets to work moving around cacao that is in the pre-dry stage.Then they go to the dryer beds to select out flat and deformed cacao.
We sell this cacao to a local cacao buyer. It is considered premium cacao to the local buyers because it is pure Nacional and it has been through our processing. But we don't keep it, because it isn't perfect.
In the afternoon, our team stirs fermenting cacao. This is when bees flood into our facility and everybody gets stung. You get used to it after a while. The bees aren't interested in cacao that has been fermenting for a few days.They want the fresher cacao, the stuff that was just harvested yesterday or the day before.
The mucilage is still sweet and sugary and the bees firebomb right in kamikaze style. They don't sting the team on purpose. You are more likely to get stung when you stick your hand in to move the cacao around and you find a bee burrowed in. If they wanted to sting us on purpose, they'd sting us on the face and arms and legs, as we stand doing work in a literal swarm of bees.
Processing cacao is pretty adventurous too. The cacao that is further along in the fermentation process is hot and acidic and brown.The mucilage has turned into thick goo that sticks to your skin.
When you are done with the mixing work on that cacao, you need to scrape the sticky mucilage off your hands with a hard, sharp, flat piece of plastic and then you fling what is on the plastic into a garbage can.
After the stirs are done, we take cacao that is finished fermenting into the pre-dry room to let the fermented cacao air out for a day. Then we bag up cacao that is fully dried and a couple of team members drive it to our warehouse where we store cacao until we have enough for export.
Then we clean the dryer beds and bring out cacao from the pre-dry room so that it can begin to dry. Cacao dries in 3-5 days depending on the weather. We check the moisture content with a hand held tool to know when it is ready to be put in bags.
The only thing that matches the excitement of the motors roaring when the field team departs, is the sound of the motorcycles when they come back to the facility with the day's harvest. Then there is a mad dash to get cacao off the trucks, out of the clear buckets and bags, and into the fermenter boxes.
Everybody works as fast as they can because by the time the team gets back from the field, it is already late afternoon and there are still 3-4 hours of work left to do. Working slowly means getting home later and nobody wants that. There is group pressure to move fast.
The field team rolls up their sleeves and helps too. After the last fermenter box is covered and the floor is hosed down clean, and the implements and buckets are washed, and we've drawn straws to see who will take home the cacao nectar that dripped off the fermentation boxes, it is time to go home.
We turn off the radio that has been blasting Spanish language pop music, turn off the lights, and wait for the night guard to show up.Once the night guard who sleeps at the facility is on site, the last person to leave locks the gate behind them and heads home under the hot, night sky.
Everybody shows up at 8am the next day to do it all again.
I hope at you have a truly blessed day!