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Even us chocolate lovers don't know much about where chocolate comes from. It comes from a plant. Can tourists help out where it is grown anywhere?

Apparently most cacao/cocoa comes from Ivory Coast and Ghana in Africa, and there are stories of child labour and even child trafficking in the industry. I'm not sure if this would make it more dangerous to participate here. Or maybe the presence of organizations working to prevent illegal child labour would make it easier for a tourist to get involved.

But besides Africa it also apparently produced in Indonesia and Malaysia in Southeast Asia and in many parts of Latin America, both Central America and South America.

I remember once buying some cocoa beans with a friend in a small indigenous market town near Oaxaca in Mexico so it must be produced in the Valles de oaxaca for instance.

I guess some kind of eco-farm or finca that takes tourists as volunteers would be the best options, but I'm open to anything, and likely to travel in any region on my future trips. It would be great to get some hands-on chocolate farming experience!


BONUS I didn't think of this at the time I asked my question, but if there's some place that does the whole process from growing cacao to making chocolate bars that would be perfect. As far as I know most cacao is grown in developing countries but made into what we know as chocolate in developed countries.

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    I did harvest some chocolate yesterday.. from the store next to my place! – Nean Der Thal Feb 8 '13 at 14:47
  • Which stores have cacao trees growing?? Maybe Arabic only has one word that means both "harvest" and "purchase" d-: – hippietrail Feb 8 '13 at 14:55
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    Love this site for things like this. pickyourown.org Though they don't have the cocoa. :) – Karlson Feb 8 '13 at 14:59
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    The comment or an answer for possible source of info: onthecocoatrail.com – Karlson Feb 14 '13 at 19:25
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    After not getting any answers at the beginning it's now going to be hard to decide who gets the bounty I would say. Thanks to all. (-: – hippietrail Feb 16 '13 at 6:01
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+100

Take a look at http://www.claudiocorallo.com/

His story is amazing, and he is probably one of the best cacao producers in the world.

They do the whole growing of cacao to sell and they produce their own chocolate also.

I know of a friend that went to Claudios farm in S. Tome e Principe and they have a guided tour where they explain the whole process of making chocolate, from the cacao plant to the chocolate itself. In the end you have a chocolate tasting session, very similar to wine tasting, with an explanation. You can even taste chocolate 100% cacao - no sugar. I had the opportunity to try it in Lisbon, where they have a small shop and the aroma is just amazing (They also have tasting sessions in Lisbon). I never thought it would be possible to have 100% cacao chocolate. But it is, all thanks to the grain selection. Accourding to Claudio bad quality grain makes it bitter.

Claudio applies the most advanced agriculture techniques to cacao. By advanced I don't mean heavy machinery or mass production. I mean careful grain selection, not necessarily the one that produces more, but the tastier. He takes into account the "terroir" - the place where you grow the plant, sun exposition, etc. Everything to produce the finest cacao.

As far as I know they don't have growing / harvesting "programs" for tourists. But than again, although very beautiful S. Tome e Principe is not very known so tourists there are a bit scarce, even more to participate in harvesting. Contact them. They will probably let you participate in the harvesting. They are small enough that you can speak to them personally and have that arranged.

You can read from a visitor description here.

Farm

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I only have a partial answer. If you are in Europe and you lack the funds, a substitute for the sensation of chocolate and cacao can be found in the Chocolate museum (DE) in Cologne, Germany. They actually have a greenhouse with cacao trees. Although you will not be allowed to pick them.

You can also go to Suriname. There is no commercial plantation anymore, but there are still quite some cacao trees in the wild. Your best chances are in the Commewijne District. Most plantation switched to citrus when the Dutch abolished slavery in 1863. So no commercial cacao there. Still there are some enthousiasts active in keeping the plant alive and making some artisan chocolat.

There is also a tourist resort (Peperpot) built around the coffee and cacao plantations of yesteryear.

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    FERAL CHOCOLATE! Wow if only I needed an internet nick or had a band without a name ... – hippietrail Feb 14 '13 at 23:52
  • have you been to the museum? IMO it's not worth seeing, it's better to spend the money and buy chocolate from the museum's shop – Dirty-flow Feb 15 '13 at 10:19
  • @Dirty-flow I guess that it is a matter of opinion. I have been there twice and I loved it. – user141 Feb 15 '13 at 12:07
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If you are really on the lookout for cacao and chocolate from start to finish, Chuao in Venezuela is the place to go.

They do not have an official 'assist on the plantation' arrangement, but local life revolves around the process, and you will certainly be able to see every part of it, and taste the products at various stages.

In my opinion, the BEST chocolate in the world originates in Chuao.

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Since 1978 Côte d'Ivoire has been the world's biggest producer of cocoa with production of 1.65 million tonnes, more than nearby Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Togo combined (1.55 million tonnes) and West Africa produces two thirds of the world's cocoa crop.

At the time this question was asked Côte d'Ivoire had no chocolate factory in country. However in May 2015 the French chocolate manufacturer CÉMOI opened a plant in Abidjan. So there is now production and processing there.

The link also mentions the chocolatier Dana Mroueh and furiously pedals away on her exercise bike (for crushing cocoa beans in an attached grinder!).

Dana Mroueh
(same source)

"Here it's really bean to bar," says Mroueh. "We want to be local. We want to show to the world that Ivory Coast is rich." She buys the cocoa beans straight from the farmer and then dries them on the roof of her factory in Abidjan, or in her newly purchased tumble dryer.

Ivorians are extremely hospitable and I simply can't imagine her declining an offer of free help from you to pedal her bicycle, or at least assist in some way.

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If you are really on the lookout for cacao and chocolate form start to finish, Africa in Ghana is the place to go.They do not have an official 'assist on the plantation' arrangement, but local life revolves around the process, and you will certainly be able to see every part of it, and taste the products at various stages.

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