You’ve probably heard me say “It’s not about the chocolate. It’s about the chocolate.” I’ve been traveling to cocoa bean origin countries for ten years and most of the time it’s fairly stressful; I am often solving problems. But this comes with the territory and I enjoy the challenges. This trip was different though. Amazingly, there were no hurdles! This was perhaps the least stressful of any origin visit, which gave me the chance to enjoy Honduras and other activities unrelated to cocoa. This purpose of the visit was “about the chocolate,” but as I relaxed into the place it was also not “about the chocolate.”
One of my favorite moments was the San Pedro Sula cattle fair – an annual event that I just happened to hit – where I spent time looking at the cattle, hanging out with my friends, eating street food, and listening to ranchera music.
I mentioned that this trip was problem-free. That might not sound like much but it’s a big deal to me. It’s hard to explain my immense of relief when I arrived at the warehouse just outside of San Pedro to inspect our 5th crop of beans from the farm. Because we practice Direct Trade we control as many aspects of the sourcing process as possible, which means we literally fret over each and every bag of beans. In a matter of minutes I arrived at some very important conclusions: the beans are dry, stored in perfect conditions, they smell great and have a taste to match. Whew! I then took the next several hours to actually verify what my senses told me in those first five minutes in the warehouse.
With farmers, spouses and some of their children assembled, we all taste chocolate. I’ve carried these samples from home for them to enjoy and study [no easy feat in the heat and humidity]. First we tried our current crop of 70% Cortes, Honduras Dark Chocolate bar. Then we compared that with the crop from the year before. What did they think? Any distinguishing characteristics between them? Lots of discussion ensued. Then, for the sake of comparison, we sampled a Special Dark Hershey bar. We completed the tasting with the custom Cortes dark chocolate we make for Intelligentsia Coffee’s chocolate drinks. Bringing chocolate to hard working farmers is gratifying for me, and would not be possible without you.
Food. You probably know by now that I love food and I enjoy experiencing new flavors when I travel. I follow rigid rules about drinking bottled water and only eating things that have been boiled, peeled, or cooked. If it passes those thresholds then I am all in! This was not my first trip to Honduras, so I knew that I’d have the Baleada (I’m going to capitalize it because it deserves the respect) experience. I ordered my Baleada at this one gas station I love, with just a few ingredients (nothing fancy): flour tortilla folded in half, filled with mashed fried beans (and not the crummy kind - this is important), scrambled eggs, and crumbled cheese. I watched in what seemed like slow-mo as the young lady prepared mine. I am going to say that this is in my top 3 breakfasts in the world. There’s other great Honduran food I could talk about here but it would detract from the magnificence of the Baleada.
I will never ever tire of sharing profits with farmers and this trip was no exception. The farmers and their spouses listened intently, eyes glued to our financial statement (in Spanish), as we explained the profit share calculation. Each farmer signed their name to the roster, received cash, and shook my hand. The minute I say how humbling it was to participate in such a meeting it tends to diminish the word “humbling,” because it seems so trite to say. One of the farmer managers spoke for the others and expressed deep appreciation for the money, for the sharing, and concluded that he and the others will pray for Askinosie’s success. I replied by saying that we’re already there and this meeting together was the proof.