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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Chocolate - How we grow and make our own chocolate.

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

You may have heard the recent incredible story of the 4 children ages 1-13, who survived not only a plane crash in the Amazon but went on to survive an additional 40 days on their own in the jungle. The world was watching closely, hoping for a miracle - that the children would be found alive and they were. To these children and their community, it was less of a miracle but more of a story of knowing how to survive where food and shelter is everywhere if you have the knowledge.

I, as has the world, been very touched by their story and lives as indigenous people; how they learn from their elders to live among nature, with her, in harmony. It's inspiring in such a profound way that I am deeply proud of these humans who live a natural life and continue to choose this way of life because it's well....natural.

In Panama, we have 7 indigenous tribes that live on tribal lands spread throughout the country where they continue to live in their ancestral ways, speak their traditional languages, govern themselves, and have their own form of currency. It's truly impressive and deeply inspiring to see how humans happily live without having to get in a car and pick up a bag of food from a drive thru window. But even more is how happy and content they are to live this way because once again, it's simply natural.

With all our technology, our incredible capacity to learn and create, these ways of living are rare, if not essentially extinct on this planet anymore which is why the story of those children was hailed as a miracle.

Living in Panama offers an incredible education in nature, and simpler, more natural ways to live especially when you don't need heat or escape from the snow! For example, there are seeds everywhere that truly have magical powers. For example, we learned that Panama tree seeds have medicinal and nutritional properties but perhaps the best tree in the jungle is the Chocolate Tree (Cacao - pictured above)! It grows naturally in the jungle and is packed full of nutrients.

The actual fruit that you see hanging off the tree is like a small dense football that is a bit larger than the palm of your hand and full of pulp covered seeds. The seeds are what eventually become the chocolate that we all love but each seed is also covered with a sweet, slightly tart, fresh flavored, juicy pulp that is delicious and plays a key role in the process of making chocolate. The seeds are soft, with an interesting bitter, distantly chocolate flavor that will not make you think of the typical chocolate bar of Willy Wonka's dreams which is why there is a long process to get to that creamy dark deliciousness that has become the one of the top 10 traded commodities in the world.

The process from fresh fruit to raw chocolate nibs is about a three week process for us. First, we harvest the fruits and remove the seeds. We place them in a large draining pot wrapped in banana leaves. Every day we mix the slimy seeds by hand, and drain the juice. The sugars from the white pulp surrounding the seeds is causing a critical process of fermentation of the seeds they envelop. After doing this for a couple of weeks, the white pulp dries up and disappears leaving behind just the seeds.

We then remove the seeds that have sprouted for planting, then dry the beans in the sun for a few days or in front of a fan if it's too humid. When they are dry, we slowly roast the seeds which is the moment our mouths start watering and our guests order an extra dessert. Roasting is the moment the chocolate flavor is truly created and what I imagine the entire town of Hershey, PA smells like - a chocolate heaven. This process also dries out the outer shell so we can remove it to get the pure, raw cacao inside.

We remove the shells by pounding the crispy seeds to loosen the shells then blow the shells off with a hair dryer. What's left behind are the crispy, tasty, pure chocolate nibs that we then use in our desserts, our sauces, and also to snack on raw. Chocolate not only makes us insanely happy, it is also known to have medicinal properties and gives a little pick-me-up with its natural caffeine content.

The biodiversity of the jungle is truly inconceivable - an endless source of mystery and education. We would love to share it more with you here some day. Now, If you ever find yourself wandering the jungle, hopefully not having been caused by a horrific tragedy, you will be armed with the knowledge of this magical fruit that you can eat, enjoy, and acquire nutrients from. Oh, and if it's your birthday, it will be our honor to bake you the cake of your chocolate loving dreams.

Your Friends in Morrillo, Cari and Ryan Mackey Owners and Hosts Morrillo Beach Eco Resort

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