Nothing compares to the taste of hot Cacao from the mountains of Colombia freshly processed on the farm itself. Keep reading for more information about my experience on visiting a Cacao Farm from Medellín, and how you can help the farmers without even stepping foot in Colombia.
If you are visiting Colombia and have the time I strongly recommend doing a tour. You will learn so much more than just where chocolate comes from. Taking this tour with Toucan Cafe & Tours I didn’t just learn about the process of making chocolate. I learned about the very real struggles that farmers who choose not to farm illegal crops face in Colombia and how through colectivos like this one they are fighting back and forging a new life for themselves.
A little bit of context
If there is one thing my time in Colombia has taught me. It is resilience and strength in the face of adversity. It’s hard to comprehend just how far the country has come in the last two decades. To transform from one of the most dangerous countries in the world to a country that is giving Chiang Mai a run for its money as a digital nomad hotspot.
These changes have happened because despite everything the Colombian people have been through they remain positive and continue to move forward. Families living in the rural areas of Colombia were hit hard by the civil war. Some were forced to grow coca plants, many chose this path. Growing illegal crops wasn’t enough to feed their families. Others were displaced and fled to the cities to find work.
In the wake of the peace agreement, there has been a push from the Government to help farmers. On the Lost City Trek, I learned about farmers in the Sierra Nevada being supported to become tour guides, others were given grants to help them expand their farms so they could grow more for exportation. Our tour guide and his family were given a grant from the United Nations to help them stop farming Coco and start growing Cacao.
Becoming a Cacao farmer is a slow process. It takes five years for the seeds planted to yield a crop. The collective I visited started with 187 members, it now has just over 100.
Why concider visiting a Cacao Farm?
I’m not going to lie, I’d never even heard of cacao before my visit to San Marcos in Guatemala, and the Cacao shaman (yes that’s right Cacao Shaman), you can read more about that here.
If like me, you have no idea what I’m talking about, Cacao is the unprocessed bean used to make chocolate. In its raw (fermented and dried) form it is actually really good for you. What makes chocolate unhealthy is all of the additives (like milk and sugar) included during the processing.
I have always been fascinated with where things come from. Growing up in the UK I felt a real disconnect from knowing where my food comes from. So while traveling I make a point of being more connected and learning where what I’m eating (and drinking) comes from.
Visiting the farm I didn’t just learn about the processing. I got to walk around the farm, watch and even take part in the processing. As a travel blogger I do a lot of tours like this, and like my visit to Comuna 13 and The Coffee Tour, visiting the Cacao Farm left a big impact on me.
What to expect on the tour
This isn’t a nice polished tour to a big farm. You need to make sure you have some decent footwear as you will be hiking! Leave your flip-flops at home and put on your hiking boots or sneakers.
To get a feel for the tour I have created this video you can watch below so you will know what to expect.
The tour begins by walking the farm and learning about growing the fruit before learning about the processing.
Then it’s time to hike down the river for the best lunch I’ve eaten in Colombia. I’ve got a real thing about plastic so getting my lunch given to me wrapped in a banana leaf was a big win!
After lunch, you can take a swim in the river, catch some sun and if you are brave, you can even jump off the rocks.
The second part of the day the wife of our guide took over and walked us through the processing of the cacao nibs. The process goes from removing the shells, right through to putting the liquid cacao into molds. The best bit was that we didn’t just watch, we actually got to do it.
The day ended with us learning how to prepare the perfect cup of hot chocolate, sweetened with Colombian panela. I also like to drink mine with a bit of chili powder!
Make sure you take some money with you so you can take some home with you.
How can you help?
Go on the tour, listen and learn.
If you are in Colombia, taking a tour like this to a small family run farm helps to subsidize the profit they make from the sale of Cacao.
If you can’t do a tour then you can still help. It’s simple really, put your money behind these farmers by buying Fair Trade. Stop buying poor quality chocolate and start spending a bit more and buying quality products that are paying the farmers a fair price for their Cacao.
Being more aware of what you are eating and where it comes from will help you make better choices.
Not only will you be eating a better quality and healthier product, but you will be helping to support the farmers working hard to support their families.
The only way we can affect change in the world is by making better choices.