One of the most intriguing things learned from this indigenous people was about the process of chocolate, in a similar way as with my visit to the Bribri Yorkin village 3 years ago.

In brief, the cacao seed grow as more than a dozen inside a fruit shown in the slideshow. The seeds are surrounded by a white jelly-like substance that you can suck off the seed and it is very sweet! The seeds are not! The seeds are removed from the fruit and allowed to ferment for 5 days during which time all the white substance goes away (not shown in slides). Then the dark brown seeds/beans are spread out in the sunshine to dry out for 22 days (not shown in the slides.) The seeds are then roasted (shown here in pan on wood fire). Then they are ground up into tiny pieces (shown here with old-fashion stone grinder by hand). Then they are winnowed or the shells are separated from the seed meat by tossing in the air (shown here by woman). Then without the shells they are ground some more until they turn to a creamy paste (shown here with a hand grinder though can be done with the same stone grinder).

Aaron then took half bananas sliced lengthwise and spread with the chocolate paste and we ate the little banana-chocolate sandwiches (not shown here, sorry). Then the woman had boiled some water into which she put some of the chocolate paste, a little cinnamon and some brown sugar. She stirred it well and gave us each a coconut shell cup of hot chocolate (see photo of one in my hand). It had no milk, so tasted a little different that the hot chocolate Americans are used to, but was good, if a little stronger chocolate taste than usual. The slideshow includes many of the above activities. After all this I don’t understand why chocolate is not more expensive than it is!   🙂 It is a labor intensive process! And reminds me of coffee production here.

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We need to return to learning about the land by being on the land, or better, by being in the thick of it. That is the best way we can stay in touch with the fates of its creatures, its indigenous cultures, its earthbound wisdom. That is the best way we can be in touch with ourselves.

~Gary Paul Nabhan

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