August of course is the official ‘quiet time’ for chocolate – in the Northern hemisphere at least. As the weather warms, foodie cravings and desires drift from chocolate, to summer fare. In certain southern European countries, chocolate factories will close down for the entire month, disappearing off the map altogether.
So what better time it seems to hit the road again in search of cacao at its source, which for this trip means the Caribbean and Latin America.
This will be a long trip, with various travelling companions and a chance to catch up with some old chocolate friends and hopefully meet many new ones along the way.
Our first port of call is the Dominican Republic, one of the largest producers of cacao in the region and very well known for its organic cacao. Our visit this time came about through passionate fine cacao supporter and champion of Ecuadorian cacao, Lourdes Delgado.
I first met Lourdes in 2005, while she was in London as a delegate for the ICCO – the International Cocoa Organisation. We met in the early evening after a daytime session of the ICCO. Idelfonso Medina, a delegate for the Dominican Republic joined us, and it turned out that Idelfonso worked for the Rizek company, owners of many plantations in the Dominican Republic, including Los Ancones, the bean source for Cluizel’s famous origin bar.
At that meeting we talked a lot about what sounded like a very considered and organised method of cacao post-harvest processing, and Idelfonso invited me to visit Rizek’s farms. At the time I took this as nothing more than a vague possibility – something that might happen at some point in the dim distant future.
Well, here we are in that future, and following a short stop off in Miami, I arrived in the Dominican Republic on the evening of 1 August 2008. The adventure was about to begin.