My first visit to origin in the Dominican Republic

Having been at LCC for 7 years, I’ve come to appreciate all the work that goes into creating our chocolates.  I see it every day whenever I walk by the window into our factory.  And while there is plenty that happens here in Burlington to make our chocolate bars, there is a long and complicated process that happens at origin, before it even arrives at our factory.  I was lucky enough to see some of process while in the DR for a week in March.  The harvest season is late this year so there wasn’t a lot of action happening quite yet.  But, it was enough to appreciate the number of man hours it takes for a pod growing on a cacao tree to become a bag of beans ready to be made into chocolate.

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Tough & remote terrain

Cacao trees don’t grow in neat and tidy rows.  The trees grow up hills and down in valleys. Sometimes the pods are low to the ground and easy to harvest, sometimes they are up high and a special tool is needed to grab those that are out of reach.   Once harvested, farmers often have to walk up and down those hills and valleys to a road where the pods can be loaded into a truck.

 

 

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Transportation of beans

Once the pods are cracked open, they are emptied into a burlap bag.  This bag of wet beans can weigh almost 100 pounds!  Not to mention the bag is  sticky and slimy (hence the bag he is using to cover his head).

 

 

 

 

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It’s Complicated

Harvesting cacao is a unique combination of physical labor and scientific analysis.  The attention and tools dedicated to the fermentation process was impressive.  Checking the ‘bricks’, the pH levels, cut tests, and different drying methods all play a crucial role in the end result.

 

 

 

 

IMG_4554The Dominicans take their cacao seriously.

They take pride in their attention to detail and understand the importance of each step along the way. A big part of this pride comes from their commitment to organic and fair trade cacao.  Everyone I met understood the significance of organic and fair trade certification in the marketplace and are committed to maintaining the DR’s position as the number one exporter of organic cacao in the world!