One kilogram is sold for about ten dollars, while a kilogram of Ivory Coast cocoa is sold for only one dollar.
Wearing rubber boots, a machete and a plastic bucket, Nydia Chavez hand-harvests cacao beans in Chua, in north-central Venezuela, known for producing “the best cocoa in the world.”
“We have black gold here,” Chavez, 43, told AFP, referring to oil, Venezuela’s main wealth.
And the woman, who was able to pick three buckets of cocoa, adds: “As for us, we live from cocoa.”
Nydia and other women cut the cacao nuts with machetes, then extract the beans from them and put them in plastic containers.
The most expensive in the world
Chua cocoa, which is famous all over the world, is used by major chocolate producing companies and sold even before it is harvested.
About 18 to 20 tons of cocoa are produced annually. For comparison, one kilogram is sold for about ten dollars, while a kilogram of Ivory Coast cocoa is sold for only one dollar.
The cocoa beans are dried in the main square of Chua, which can only be reached by boat in the Caribbean Sea, then by following a single road five kilometers from the port of Chua.
Estelita Aceh, who was born 63 years ago in this village of about 3,000 people, says: “The cacao is everything to us, and it is special, perhaps because we harvest it with love.”
The entire process, from sowing the seeds to harvesting and selling, is based on more than 300 years of experience.
The method of work
The freshly extracted beans are covered with banana leaves inside a fermentation chamber of the community company, Imbiza Campezina Chua. However, the grain pickers operate independently.
The ceiling and floor of the fermentation room are made of wood, while the humidity and temperature are high, which is the perfect environment for the beans to develop their desired flavor and texture.
Then the cocoa beans are dried in the sun for eight hours a day, before being stored and packed into bags weighing up to 61 kilograms each.
Nothing should go wrong with this artisanal process, because fermentation for too long or in poor conditions can alter the quality of the beans.
Close to Imbiza Campezina Chua, whose mission is to produce “100% pure” cocoa, Vicenta Gamez, 66, sells chocolate spreads, chocolate bars, juices and tea, all of which she prepares with her son, Robin Herrera, 28.
“Everything here is made by hand, we don’t have big machines to do the jobs,” Basma says, adding, “We have the best cocoa in the world, which is our greatest pride.”