Madre Chocolate-From the Road in Xoconusco, Chiapas

Clay Gordon
07/03/11 06:59:01PM

Hola and Aloha everyone, from Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico!

Thanks a million to everyone who's backed us, we're forever indebted to you, and we're slowly reaching our goal. We wanted to give you this update and encourage to tell all your friends & family about our project so we can be sure to get it funded, and we can truly benefit all the amazing cacao farmers and traditional chocolate makers we've been meeting over the last 2 weeks in Chiapas & Oaxaca! So if you have a moment, please pass this on to everyone you know.

We wanted to give you a taste of what we've found down here so far. On getting to Tapachula at the center of the Xoconusco Cacao growing region of Chiapas, we met with the CASFA cacao coop and were quickly introduced to cacao growers and fermentation centers in 4 towns, Santa Cecilia, Tusantan, Plan de Ayala, and Huehuetan, where the mainly Criolo cacao grew in biodiverse, multicrop orchards, under the shade of towering palm trees and frilly-leafed soil-enriching legume trees like the ear pod and guaje:

They had all made incredible improvements to their fermentation techniques since we'd visited them last year, using wooden boxes covered with banana leaves where the cacao is turned every day:

or these excellent new barrel fermenters made with a Cuban design:

that really got the heat up inside so nice & high we could hardly keep our hand in there for very long:

But of all the cacao growing areas we saw, Santa Cecilia in the mountains had the most beautiful setting for growing their cacao:

with cacao drying areas on the roof, out of the reach of chickens:

Don Isidro who runs this cacao growing & fermentation group with his family were incredibly nice, and probably due to the great mountain climate and his excellent fermentation techniques, they had the best cacao we tasted in Chiapas. A beautifully fruity taste without much astringency. And he and his family were really excited to taste the chocolate we'd made from some Mexican beans and brought with us, as these cacao growers rarely get to taste what happens to their cacao when it leaves the state and the country.

Let me tell you, we tasted a lot of cacao from the CASFA warehouse in order to select the best beans, probably a pound each between Dave and I of raw cacao a day (that's 100% chocolate, so the equivalent of about 1.5 lbs or 13 bars of dark chocolate), so we were pretty wired by the end of the day:

But it was all worth it when we got to kick back with a nice cup of locally made chocolate drink like thisChampurradomade with cacao, sugar, cinnamon, and white cornatoleor porridge and is filling, refreshing, and delicious all at once!
So when we get the funding with all of your help to buy 1000 lbs of this cacao, we know exactly which one we will get, and that we can help all these communities with your support by buying them barrel fermenters which do the best job of getting the heat up on the cacao and producing excellent tasting beans! We've taken small samples of these beans back to Hawaii, some after roasting on the traditional claycomalpan, which we will turn into a small batch of limited edition bars to thank you, our backers.

We also got some great news while we were in Chiapas that Nat will be teaching abean-to-bar chocolate making classin New York City and the beautiful newSaveur Magazine test kitchen, that we've been asked to travel all the way to Sweden to teach a similar class, that chocolate bon bon makers in Belgium want to order our chocolate over even the internationally renowned Belgian chocolate, and that our new limited edition Xoconusco Rosita de Cacao chocolate bars, fresh out of the molds, will be kindly featured byMaricel Presillaat her exclusive tasting at theFine Chocolate Industry Association meetingin Washington DC, on July 9! Things are really starting to take off!

Our next update will be from Oaxaca where will give you a taste of all the amazing and aromatic spices and flowers that are used in their traditional chocolate drinks liketejate, bu'pu, atole, pozol,and more. Stay tuned, and please ask everyone you know to make this project a success!