Blog : cacao

Whether Willy Wonka or Bocas Bonkers…it’s all about chocolate

Whether Willy Wonka or Bocas Bonkers…it’s all about chocolate

As many of you will know, we’re not just developing a treehouse retreat, we’re also developing a chocolate farm. Part of the bíku land is a cacao plantation. Bocas del Toro – home to the bíku retreat – is the cacao-growing region of Panama. And boy does it produce wonderful cacao. To stay on the pulse of what’s going on in the chocolate world, we’ve been going to the Chocolate Show for the past couple of years. Any excuse to eat chocolate!

This year did not disappoint; bigger and better than ever. There was great effort promoting Peru and the Dominican Republic, among others, as cacao producing countries. Our aim is to get Panama representatives at the show one year – to introduce people to the delights the small isthmus has to offer.

I wanted you to get to know three companies I met this year that really wowed me with their business aims as well as tantalised my taste buds!

Harry Specters

 

Harry Specters is a very special chocolatier indeed. As its strap line suggests, ‘Enjoy the chocolate, Love the cause’, the company is driven by a greater social purpose. The company offers employment to young people with autism, but goes beyond that by providing a number of programmes to boost confidence and self esteem. Find out more. It’s truly inspiring to see how the social impact element is core to what the company does. As if this wasn’t enough – the chocolates are exquisite. I picked up a couple of early Christmas presents from their stall. I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to keep my mitts off the gifts before December! My family might have to do with empty chocolate boxes on December 25!

Beau Cacao

Offering single estate chocolate using cacao grown in Malaysia, Beau Cacao’s chocolate is stunning – the epitome of indulgence. The company sources the cacao beans directly from small-scale farmers and handle the production themselves – all in all better for the farmers, better for the industry and better for the chocolate! It’s great to see a company so passionate about what they are crafting and offering to us chocolate lovers, as well as about the sourcing of cacao and the sustainability of the business.

I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of chocolate bars (as pictured): Asajaya 2014, 73% – beans grown by Mr Chang(!) – amazing caramel tones, rich and smooth; and Serian 2014, 72% – beans grown by Mr Cyril(!) – a much more earthy, smoky flavour. Honestly, chocolate like nothing I’ve tasted before. My favourite thing? The fact that the company tells you who has grown the beans and the year in which the beans were harvested – genius.

CACAOTALES

I spent a good amount of time speaking to Luis Mancini from CACAOTALES – thank you for your time Luis, and sorry that I took up so much of it! Luis is a cacao farmer, from Peru. He feels strongly about supporting the farmers, giving them the best price for their cacao, and in doing so ‘helping them rediscover their dignity and pride’. Luis set up CACAOTALES to find other cacao smallholders in Peru, like himself, and facilitate direct trade – connecting the best farmers with the best artisan chocolatiers.

I’ll be in touch Luis – looking forward to future collaboration.

A great day out, ate at least half my weight in chocolate (and don’t regret it a bit!)

Until next time, #liveslow!

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Bocas connections

Bocas connections

Panama visit – day 9. Things are really ramping up with only a few days left before we fly back to the UK, and still so much to do! Day 9 was a busy day on the Bocas islands, reconnecting with old Bocas contacts and making new ones – all for future collaboration with bíku.

bíku, a business to benefit Bocas

We haven’t written much about this yet, but we will run bíku as a social enterprise; ie a revenue generating business whose main aim is to address social issues. The profits from bíku will be reinvested in the local community, primarily to develop community led social businesses. There is already a lot of great work being done in Bocas for the conservation of the natural environment as well as the culture, especially of the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous community, and the history of the place. As they say, there is great strength in numbers. Since the inception of our bíku plans, we have been meeting with people working in Bocas with similar aims as our own – so that we can collaborate with them once we’re up and running.

One of these people is Angel – who we wrote about in yesterday’s blog. It’s always good to catch up with him; he is looking forward to seeing our project come to fruition. Angel knows everything about and everyone in Bocas! He’s at the core of a lot of the great work happening here. He told us about some very interesting developments in Bocas. In conjunction with the Panama tourism authority (ATP) a museum is being developed on the main island, Isla Colón, to share with tourists the rich history of the Bocas islands. The other is a work in progress regarding the restriction of tour boats going to Dolphin Bay (Bahia de los Delfines). The hope is that there will be a restricted number of tours a day, working to a schedule. This development is a long time coming and will be a huge benefit to the dolphins and other marine life in the area.

So fresh and so clean

Another of our visits was to Punta Coco, which is a small company that makes organic soaps and other toiletries from pure Bocas coconut! We were lucky enough to come away from the meeting with a number of goodies to try … Only local, and only the best for our bíku guests. And only things that we have tested and approved first!


Punta de Coco soap slab

Up in the hill

Finally, as you might have seen from our Instagram stories, we also visited ‘Up in the hill’ on Isla Bastimentos. After a 20 minute walk up the hill, making our way through tropical rainforest and stopping for the occasional photograph and insect / bird interrogation, we reached our final destination ‘Up in the hill’. This place is a real tropical hideaway – an ecolodge, cacao farm, coffee and organic product shop. It is run by a Scottish and Argentinian couple who actually met in Bocas. They originally came to Bocas, separately, some 20 years ago volunteering with the turtle conservation work. Anyone who comes to Bocas should definitely visit this hidden treasure. There is great coffee, chocolate, and conversation waiting for you after the long, uphill walk! And we completely agree with their slogan, ‘Good things come in the trees’!

Ariel tucked away at Up in the hill

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Until next time, #liveslow.