Well rested from our Indiana Jones wild jungle style ride yesterday – we get back into work mode amongst the rugged beauty of Makira. We start by inspecting the nearby fermentary, where we get to see the strenuous turning and drying process in action.
The fermentation process hasn’t changed much from the ancient Mesoamerican methods. In the large wooden boxes, yeasts feed off the cocoa pulp and consume any oxygen within the heap, forming ethanol. The Lactic acid bacteria species start to take over, producing lactic acid, before the farmers turn the cocoa heaps to oxygenate and promote the growth of Acetic acid bacteria. This produces the acetic acid which causes the temperature within the heaps to reach around of 55–60 °C.
This stage of the whole chocolate process is so essential, as it forms the basic flavour and aroma pre-cursors for good-quality chocolate. Lucky for us these farmers are pros! We come at the perfect time where - the drying stage! As I've said before, the process of drying can be problematic in the Solomons, with high rainfall and humidity. But Sun drying is most commonly used because it is inexpensive and the farmers here can't all afford the bubble dryers like Lenard's.
The beans are all spread out to be dried, manually. It takes a bit of time, bucket by bucket, until the whole sheet is filled. We go to meet with our next farmer group, but Henry stays back to watch over the beans just in case the rain comes.
We visit Simon's farm, and what a mission to get to! We cross the flowing streams and hike through the forest, fighting off mosquitoes and avoiding stepping on giant centipedes (the largest Australasian and Asian centipede). We toured the large farm and Lenard was put on the spot to do his first practice audit, he was a little nervous. It was great to visit this particular farm, as their was a parallel farm that wasn't well kept, and we could compare a good farm (Simon's) verse a bad farm looked like.
By the time we trekked back there was fresh crayfish, root vegetables and greens waiting for us. Ahhh the Solomon Island life, where the people are amazingly kind and lead happy, simple lives that have not changed over the centuries!
Coming up on the blog: We tour a local school, and learn some culture and history before leaving Makira...