Coffee coffee coffee, to quote one of my favourite tv shows (you should say it really fast to replicate it well). While I can live without my coffee (not chocolate, that I need or I turn into a wailing she-b***h), the ritual of drinking it is well ingrained in me, and finding out how it’s grown, roasted and ground is fascinating (to me).
While at the typical house on our Monkey Land excursion out of Punta Cana, we got a quick tour of a small, local coffee plantation, and also got to learn about chocolate. So basically, if they had grown strawberries as well, it would have been my ultimate place to be.
We arrived around 10 a.m. at the ‘typical house’ as it’s styled on the excursion site. We were given a brief tour of the house, before heading onto the farm to get a crash course in coffee and chocolate.
I’d been on a coffee tour years ago in Costa Rica, so I was familiar with the process. Coffee ‘cherries’ are picked and then spread out in the sun to dry for 2 to 3 weeks. After that, they’re milled – in Dominican Republic, they’re put into a large vessel and pounded with a club – sort of like a giant mortar and pestle. After that, they’re roasted, ground….and you get to brew it for delicious, delicious coffee.
I had had a similar indoctrination to harvesting chocolate while in Cuba (Baracoa- great chocolate if you happen to get down that way). Chocolate is harvested much the same. Cocoa pods grow on trees, in a variety of colours (green, brown, red), but once the pods turn yellow – they’re ripe. They’re picked, and opened to reveal…..weird alien looking, gooey insides that no one in their right mind should ever have tasted.
But you can – the white seeds inside taste faintly sweet when you suck on them (bitter, if you bite on them). But, that’s not chocolate. The white seeds are fermented, dried, and then roasted.
At that point – you can eat it. It’s the purest form of dark chocolate. So, pretty much bitter, but…..oh my god, still good.
At the typical house we were at, they put the roasted cocoa beans into a grinder (much like coffee), mix in a little cinnamon and brown sugar (both organic) and voila! Tasty, sweet chocolate. (Before they could afford grinders, they used to rub the roasted bean on a grater to create the chocolate powder.)
We ended up buying a package of both the coffee (in bean form, since we have a grinder at home), and the powdered chocolate. And of course, we got pulled over at security in the airport because the bags sent of the xray machine. And then of course, no one spoke English and we don’t speak much Spanish (beyond ordering drinks and asking where the bathroom is), so the security guy had to poke a hole in the bag to get a good smell….thankfully it was the coffee bean bag, so I didn’t end up with chocolate covered everything by the time I got home.