7am start, 2 hour drive to countryside, cross Maranon river by current powered ferry to the project “office”/dried cacao storage/Brian’s bedroom. Food very basic. 3 miles to Don Noe’s 12 hectare farm (4×4). Met Don Noe (Noah). Turkeys, butterflies, hens, guinea pigs, dogs roam around farmhouse. Coconuts, bananas, coffee, star fruit, mango, avocado and many more types of fruit. Very diverse.
First cacao pods only 10m from farmhouse, all growing underneath the shade of mainly cedar and banana trees. A walk through the densely forested farm begins, guiding us through the types of cacaos on the farm including pure nacional and CCN-51 (learned a lot about this today, too much to post now) and a nacional and ‘criollo’ mix. Differences in appearance and raw flavour of these strains demonstrated. Enlightening.
Some loss of bananas due to drought last year means heat damage to now exposed cacao. Everything here depends on each other. Harvested decomposing cacao husks on floor create midges which pollinate cacao flowers which turn to cacao pods (and repeat..) rats eat pods digest seeds (beans) poop them out and plant the seeds. Very bio-diverse, in fact the most I have ever seen on any farm ever. No fields here. A jumble of carefully selected and planted mixed plants.
Opened and tried various cacao in raw state. Learned a lot, opened one pod that had over 90% white beans. Educational.
Long lunch of freshly killed turkey with tatties and rice, prepared by Noah’s wife. Cocktails made from cacao juice.
Long talk with Noah, lots of questions on particularly on economics, ethics and aspirations answered. Nice guy, relaxed, good heart, hard working life for him and his family. Gave his son Max a bag of soor plooms (scottish sweeties).
Drive back to Brians cacao processing plant, several guys turning beans in fermentation. Many beans drying in sun. Excellent conditions, he is managing this with complete integrity to the quality, claims of 100% fermentation and pure nacional are genuine, he is obsessed, I like that. Secret room that hides how he deals with the vinegar content after 100% fermentation. Wasn’t allowed in.
Drive back to base town, lots to think about. Time to head out into the dusty night for cerveza.. amazing day.