I don’t know about you, but I love all things chocolate, so a visit to this cacao farm was a must! Hacienda Chocolat is a private farm that is focused on making Puerto Rico a leader in quality cacao production. Located in Fajardo, on the eastern side of the El Yunque, the farm gets ideal conditions to grow cacao (and some other crops, too!). Owner Yadira Vázquez is joining the agro-tourism movement, with walking tours of the farm and glamping sites (coming soon!), so that more people can learn about growing food and enjoy being part of nature.
The farm, which is forested, has many different varieties of trees (fruiting and otherwise). They also have planted about 3000 cacao trees. Unlike the large cacao producers in Africa, Hacienda Chocolat grows about 10 different varieties of cacao, and the beans all get processed together. This gives them a diverse genetic profile, enabling them to have a better quality end product with diverse flavor profiles. They call it “cacao fina y aroma” (fine aroma ccacao.
The tour starts at their eco-friendly visitor center. Then you walk (maybe ½ mile) through the cacao trees learning all about cacao production. This part is at a slow pace, talking and walking for about 1 hour with frequent stops. You learn how the trees grow, what they need, how to prune/harvest, and get the seeds ready for market. It is really pretty and interesting. They call this tour from bush to bean. It is amazing to see the different colors of cacao pods, and see the work that goes into growing and caring for these trees. They answer any and all questions about the farm/trees/process.
Then you circle back to the visitors center where they explain the next steps — fermenting, drying, and processing the beans into chocolate. Actually seeing this last part (bean to bar) will be a future tour. Their goal is to produce the best dark chocolate bar, made 100% in Puerto Rico. This is a goal soon to be made a reality, but until they are ready, they sell most of their cacao crop to local chocolate producers.
During this last part of the tour they offer fresh fruit snacks, and samples of all things chocolate — from the seed with pulp, dried cacao nibs, hot chocolate, quality dark chocolate bar, cacao fruit jam, and more! The views from the property are wonderful. And we went home with some other produce grown on the farm! What is not to like?
They also offer other tours..like paring Wine, Rum or Whiskey with chocolate, and Art and chocolate workshops. Check their Facebook page for events.