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Publish: June 10, 14

FINO DE AROMA STORIES – A COCOA WITH HISTORY “UN CACAO CON HISTORIA”

This is the story of a Colombian family that relies on Cacao Fino de Aroma for their family business.

A cocoa with history was born when CasaLuker went to visit the Torres’ family cocoa farm in Huila, Colombia. The story is set in Gigante, a village in the Colombian department of Huila, 379 km south of Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá. The region is essentially agricultural and 70% of its economy depends on coffee and cocoa. Spending time with the family, understanding their way of life and listening to their story out in the fields, gave us a different perspective of the hard work that goes into the cocoa business.

The town of Gigante is home to the Torres family whose life has always centred on cocoa. For over 20 years, the Torres brothers—Ricardo and Edgar—have owned and run the cocoa farm that they inherited from their parents. Cocoa is a family tradition for them and today they depend on it as their main source of income.

Cocoa in Colombia is produced mainly by small farmers with plots of around 3 hectares. The Torres family, however, own a medium-sized 20-hectare farm where they grow, ferment and dry the cocoa beans. All the work is undertaken by the brothers and their workers, and Olga, Ricardo’s wife, runs the point of purchase in town.

Ricardo Torres is a 42 year-old man who has been married to Olga for 20 years. They have two children; one is at university and the other is in high school and lives in Gigante with his grandmother. His brother Edgar also has two children. One is a 15 year-old girl who lives with Edgar and his wife in the town and the other, a young man of 23, works outside the city. Cocoa growing is going through tough times in terms of heritage. Nowadays, young generations want to move to the big cities, but the Torres brothers try to establish cocoa farming in their families as a way of life.

Every day, they learn from the land and from nature. “In the countryside, there is a beautiful connection of peace and love,” says Ricardo’s wife. Apart from cocoa, they grow other plants that provide them with their everyday food and serve to earn an extra income.

They start their day early with a cup of hot chocolate and bread or corn arepas together with other farmers who live nearby and come every day to work on the farm. Depending on the time of year, they have different tasks. Now that the harvest has begun, they start the pruning process.

They cut down the cocoa pods one by one and stack them up next to the trees. Then, they all sit around the piles of cocoa pods and open each one to remove the beans and the mucilage.

The beans are then placed in plastic buckets or in wooden boxes and are transported to be fermented by Camilo the donkey, one of the farm’s most loyal workers. Fermentation is one of the most important steps in the cocoa chain, where the precursors of aroma and flavor are developed.

There are different fermentation methods. Here at the Torres’ farm, the beans are placed in a big wooden box and stored for 6 to 7 weeks, the recommended time for correct fermentation. After that, the beans have to be dried. They are laid out in a structure made out of wood and plastic where they are exposed to sunlight for several days in order to reduce their water content from 55% to7 % and to eliminate some of the acids naturally present in cocoa. Once dry, the beans are taken to the cocoa point of purchase located in town, which they also run. There they buy from other farmers and they supply this Cacao Fino de Aroma to CasaLuker.

Ricardo and Edgar will visit Granja Luker for 5 days for a training program where they will learn different techniques that they can apply on their farm in order to improve the quality of their Cacao Fino de Aroma, to protect their crop from diseases, to have a better yield per hectare and get to see how an agroforestry model is designed and applied.

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