[Editor’s Note: Considering that the island of Puerto Rico as well other countries and territories are currently on lockdown as a precautionary measure in view of the COVID-19 pandemia, we find worthy to republish some ecotreasures ® articles in this issue. We exhort you to appreciate the privilege of engaging in outdoors experiences, admiring nature and bonding with others and Mother Earth as you read for the first time or again the story below. Nature is awaiting you so visualize your next agritourism experience for future planning.]
Article originally published in December 2016 ecotreasures issue:
In a mountainous zone in the Municipality of Aguada, Puerto Rico, located along the western coastline of Puerto Rico, there is one of the best kept secrets: cacao.
Jeanmarie Chocolat is the result of a project dedicated to organic cacao cultivation in order to produce high-quality dried or roasted cacao beans, 100% pure chocolate bars, 75% pure chocolate bars with a little bit of coconut flavor, and cocoa powder.
Juan Echevarria, farmer and co-owner of Jeanmarie Farm, said that his encounter with agriculture began in 2009 as his interest for the production of cacao was born. Soon after, cacao was cultivated in Jeanmarie Farm and Juan and his wife embarked on a new adventure: cacao production.
Besides cultivating cacao in Jeanmarie Farm, Juan proudly informed about their commitment to also purchase cacao from other farmers. He explained that such cacao is processed in Jeanmarie Farm to assure the elaboration of high quality cacao products.
After sensing Juan’s passion and love for cacao, we were eager to immerse in the 2.4-acre farm. We were surprised as we saw different cacao trees: the Forastero, Trinitario and Criollo trees, as identified by Juan. He explained that the Trinitario tree is a hybrid of the Forastero and Criollo trees. It was impressive to watch the distinctive colors of the cacao fruit produced by different cacao tree species.
Juan emphasized that cacao cultivation is very productive since the harvest lasts all year round. In Jeanmarie Farm, cacao is harvested every 15 days throughout the whole year, as stated by Juan. However, Juan said that cacao's most productive season in the farm is during April- May and November-December.
The enthusiastic farmer said that they implement permaculture practices in the farm. As we walked down a hill, we saw a variety of crops such as bananas, cassava, and plantains. Decomposed cacao fruits were on the ground; however, Juan explained that these are left there to serve as a natural fertilizer. Then we saw a wide variety of crops cohabitating with the cacao trees: tubers, annatto and pineapple, pigeon peas and soursop trees. As Juan pointed out Guaba trees, he explained that these were planted to provide shadow to the cacao trees. While we admired the farm and listened to Juan, we sensed the love for the earth of the Puerto Rican family behind Jeanmarie Farm.
Also, Juan showed us where the cacao fermentation and drying processes occur. He said that the fermentation process lasts around six days while the drying process lasts around five days. As we admired the beauty of the dried cacao beans, we smelled the rich chocolate aroma. Next we saw the place where they roast and grind the cacao beans that are cooked to create the delicious artisanal Jeanmarie Chocolat.
After tasting Jeanmarie Chocolat dark chocolate, we assure you that you will be more demanding when purchasing chocolate. Jeanmarie Chocolat dark chocolate bar with pure coconut flavor is heavenly!
For those interested in scheduling a visit to Jeanmarie Farm or purchasing this farm’s organic dried or roasted cacao beans or chocolate bars, you may contact Jeanmarie Farm by sending an email to email@example.com.
Translated by N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo