Wearing rubber boots and a sharp knife, Nidia Chávez enters the plantation to harvest the “best” cacao in Venezuela, also known in her town as “black gold” that she feeds them.
It’s a term usually reserved for oil, which is also abundant in this Caribbean country. But in Chuao, Aragua state (central-north), cocoa is everything.
“It’s the black gold that we have here, it’s what we live on,” Chavez, 43, told AFP after collecting three containers with fruit covered in a sweet white “slime” with a delicate hint of citrus. told.
Plantation is huge. With knives, Chávez and other colleagues cut the cacao in half to extract the pulp, which they then store in plastic containers.
In Chuao, inhabited by the descendants of slaves brought from Africa for hard agricultural work, there is one important rule that applies to tourists and natives alike: Don’t pluck fruit.
It is tempting, as burgundy and yellow ears grow along the 5 kilometers connecting the coast, the main access to this town, and the town, where grain is dried in the sun.
“It’s forbidden,” repeats Mauricio Sousa, 48, a boatman and Chuao’s tour guide. “If not, we will be without cocoa because it is very tasty” seeds, comment. “This is our life, our world.”
In this town, 18 to 20 tons of cocoa are produced per year, which a civil association, the Chuao Campesino Company, sells entirely to a businessman very close to the community, who transforms it into precious chocolate of original denomination.
A kilo of cocoa beans can be sold for around $10.
– “our pride” –
Estelita Aceh was born 63 years ago in this town of about 3,000 residents surrounded by mountains, which is easily accessible by boat. The other option is a multi-day trek through the jungle.
“Cocoa is everything,” he insists. “It is special, it will be because someone lovingly holds it.”
Recently extracted seeds rest, covered with banana leaves, in the fermentation room, an old structure with wooden ceilings and floors where women can be heard joking about the gifts they will receive for Mother’s Day Could
The place is so hot that being inside for even a few minutes is enough to make you feel suffocated: it’s the perfect environment for grains to achieve the ideal flavor and texture.
The grain is then sun-dried for eight hours a day, after which it is placed in 61 kg bags and packed.
It is an artistic process that does not accept failures, as any error can modify the quality of the product.
Near the Chuao Campesino company, whose premise is to produce “100% pure” cacao, Vicente Gémez, 66, offers spreadable chocolate, chocolates, punch and tea that she prepares with her 28-year-old son, Robin Herrera.
“We do it by hand, we don’t have big machines to produce it all,” he explains with a smile. “Our cocoa is our greatest pride and the best in the world.”