Loco for Coco!

Authored by:
Lindsay Nelson

Lindsay Nelson

On Saturday we students from Service Learning and Language & Culture gathered to take a day trip to the Nothern costal city of Puerto Plata. We began our day trip with a stop at a family-owned cacao farm called “Hacienda Cufa.”

Nydirah and Goamaar looking at the insides of a cacao pod. That white stuff eventaully becomes the dark chocolate we enjoy! 

Students learned about how chocolate is made: from start, to very delicious finish. As we walked through the leaf-covered path, we learned about the inter connected eco-system that allows the cacao production to flourish. The leaves that cover the forest floor allow for the soil below to retain moisture. As of late, the Dominican has been in a severe drought that has impacted the family's ability to produce chocolate. According to our guides, climate change has had a profound effect on the country. As our tour guide commented, “Sin agua, no hay vida.” Without water, there is no life.

Our tour guides: Family members of the founders of the cacoa farm. 

Of course, cacao farmers aren't all work and no play so the family showed us what they do for a bit of fun.


What do you need to go sledding in a country where it never snows?

1. A giant, dried palm leaf

2. A hill

3. Enough dry leaves to cover the hill! 

The “Tobogán” rides were a hit among students, who sat atop the leaf, sometimes two at a time, and took turns cascading down the hill.

Kayla taking her tun on the hill 

As the tour continued, we learned about sustainable alternatives to planting cacao trees with plastic. With a simple banana leaf it is possible to fashion a biodegradable planter that leaves no trace.

Once the wet seeds have been harvested, they are covered in ash, dried in the sun, and are ready to be ground down into the raw material we use to make chocolate! On this farm, they use what is called "Pilón" to crush the seeds. As the seeds are crushed by the pestle, the natural oils of the seed are released allowing the substance to be manipulated into different shapes.


After enjoying a snack of chocolate marmalade, hot chocolate, and chocolate bars, it was time for our chocolate spa. Our local program leader Francina lent a hand (literally) in applying the masks.

Sar and Francina in the Chocolate Spa 
O'Morey and Olivia sporting some natural looks

Jake enjoying his facial 

Chocolate has hydrating and cleansing properties as we soon found out upon washing our faces.

Post spa treatment, students had the opportunity to buy some of the chocolate products offered at the farm. Judging by the flurry of bills and plastic bags stuffed to the brim with chocolate, it's safe to say that some of you will be enjoying some organic Dominican chocolate in no time :)


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