Since the conception of our project we firmly stood committed to support and source all of our core needs with local materials and renewable resources. Among those things kept in the pipeline was the proper identification and sourcing of the hardwood necessary for the construction of our fermentation boxes/modules. And I say boxes because is the most common method of fermenting cacao beans. But we’re planning to build some other prototypes with other form factors that may result in better fermentation and superior bean quality.
Because cacao farming is not a traditional commercial crop in Puerto Rico, there’s no infrastructure or proper institutional guidance on what are the best parameters for local hardwood selection that may best fit our need for its thermal characteristics among other traits. We’ve researched numerous publications and documentation prepared by entities in multiple fine cacao producing countries and are closing in on what is our best bet on locally sourced hardwood.
We’re firmly committed not to use any imported wood for this purpose. This is part of a solidarity economy approach that we also aim for.
After receiving some highly regarded references from friends and family members we were directed to a wonderful project named Eye on the Rainforest or Casas de la Selva (Spanish). Information from their website :
Established in 1983, the land known as Las Casas de la Selva is the home of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry & Rainforest Enrichment Project, in Patillas, Puerto Rico. Silvicultural techniques developed and applied at Las Casas de la Selva over the last three decades, demonstrate, that on a small scale in Puerto Rico, secondary forests can be ecologically and economically suitable for sustainable timber production. This eco-technology was implemented to encourage similar practice in the Caribbean and globally, as a contribution to economic development that encourages local protection and sustainable management of secondary tropical forests. For thirty years Las Casas de la Selva has seen people from all over the planet live and work in her forest in all areas of science, art, and management. Learning by doing; gathering valuable experiences about life and human interaction in this forest biome, striving to continue and keep the process of creating ecological and sustainable communities, going, going, and never gone.
So after we contacted them (Wonderful and very helpful “3T” Vakil and Andrés Rúa) via email, we scheduled a visit to see how can we co-inspire ideas. First, the trip there is wonderful. Their location is contiguous to the beautiful and protected area of the Carite Forest Reserve provides a hint of what to expect. Exuberant vegetation, small creeks and waterfalls provides you with the perfect ambientation before arrival.
A word of advice if visiting : A non-all wheel drive car can get to the complex but only if it’s not raining, if raining I’ll choose to leave the car at the entrance and take the not too far walk there.
At arrival, I was warmly greeted by a very handsome dog who I miss it’s name. Later, I met 3T and Andrés who kindly offered me coffee, which I gladly accepted.
In this first meeting we talked a lot of the possible hardwood for the job and other interesting possible collaborations. We need to repeat the visit once we zero-in the most appropriate wood for the job. We plan to build it before we leave to our trip to Grenada next month.
We’re very grateful to 3T’s and Andrés hospitality and kindness.
We’ll keep you posted!
In exactly one month I’ll embark into a new and exciting learning adventure. I’ll be working as an intern at Crayfish Bay Organic Cocoa Estate located on the rural North West coast of the island of Grenada. A two hundred year old 15 acre estate which has been restored into a working commercial organic cocoa farm after it was severely damaged by hurricane Iván in 2004.
Crayfish Bay Organic Cocoa Estate supplies local chocolate factory The Grenada Chocolate Company with it’s fine cacao beans, which carefully crafts one of the best and probably the most ethical chocolate in the world. Also, they recently started providing bean-to-bar chocolatier Pump Street Bakery in London, with their premium organic cacao beans to create a hand-made, critically acclaimed single origin chocolate bar.
Grenada, also known as the “spice island”, has a long tradition of cacao cultivation together with mace and nutmeg, as the name implies. I’m eager to arrive and finally meet owners/hosts Kim and Lylette, grenadian farmers, learn about their history and visit their beautiful natural attractions. It will surely be a great experience meeting new friends. I’ll make constant updates to our blog section once settled.