A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory – Altamira, Dominican Republic

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

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Fathom is a cruise line like no other. They do offer the typical shore excursions, but the focus is on their impact activities where passengers can participate in social good excursions to aid locals in the Dominican Republic.

The Chocal women’s cooperative was may first choice for an activity. This is a women’s cooperative that cultivates, processes, packages and sells chocolate. The factory is located in Altamira, which is in the rain forest just outside of downtown Puerto Plata.

Employment opportunities are limited in this rural area, but this cooperative has been helping the community for years. The women work hard and hours can be flexible, so that they can still care for their families. The many young men we noticed working are actually sons of the original women of the co-op who are now getting much needed work experience.

Cacao Pods - A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

Cacao trees are started in a nursery and then planted in a more permanent location. The pods look beautiful hanging on the mature trees. Those of us who opted for a Tuesday or Wednesday morning trip, had a nursery tour and lunch included. Other groups just had time for the factory portion of the activity.

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

As part of the impact portion of our activity, we broke up into smaller groups and moved around to different work stations.  We sorted the dried cacao and removed the beans that weren’t good enough to be made into chocolate. We also removed bits of shell from the processed cacao nibs. Employees watched to help us do the jobs properly. I’m pretty sure we got all the shells out on our own, but know we made some mistakes on the sorting.

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

We also poured melted chocolate into molds which were then chilled prior to packaging. This was time consuming for us, since it does take skill and practice. It was fun and interesting to fill a chocolate mold and get the bubbles out. However, I know the people who helped us could have gotten a lot more work done without us at this step of the process.

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

In addition to the chocolate bars, the women also sell a Dominican hot chocolate, which we got to sample. The unique cacao beverage contains roasted corn and a bit of sugar. It was delicious!

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

I had a great time at Chocal. I loved learning about the whole process involved in making the chocolate and thought it was fun to try out the production steps. The Dominicans were friendly and happy to show us the business they’ve built.

Did we actually make an impact with our work?

As far as the chocolate production, I’d say no. They are much better at their jobs than we were. They had to prepare for us and supervise us at each of the work stations. They could have made more chocolate without our disruption.

However, there is one big way in which we benefited them. We spent a lot of money in their gift store. This was more than they would have earned on a typical day without busloads of tourists visiting them. I bought chocolate bars and hot chocolate. They also had cacao wine and some handcrafted items. US dollars were welcomed. The people seemed genuinely happy to have us there.

It was a good day. Even if my slow sorting and awkward chocolate bar skills reduced their daily production, they ended up benefiting from the good times we had and the money we left behind!

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

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Chocal
Camino Palmar Grande
Altamira, Puerto Plato
Dominican Republic

A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory - Altamira, Dominican Republic

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15 comments for “A Day at The Chocal Cacao Factory – Altamira, Dominican Republic

  1. Jeffrey
    May 20, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    This looks like a fantastic place to visit.

  2. vickie couturier
    May 21, 2016 at 3:13 am

    that does look like a lot of fun and interesting too

  3. Mia
    May 21, 2016 at 7:52 am

    How fascinating to learn and participate in the process and the chocolate looks yummy.

  4. Mary Mac
    May 23, 2016 at 4:09 am

    This would be an excursion that I would love to go on. They wouldn’t have a problem with the chocolate that I made because I would have eaten all of it.

  5. mrsshukra
    May 23, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I learned a lot from this post, thank you!

  6. shannon R
    May 24, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    I like that tree.

  7. ger
    May 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Pretty interesting, I would like to go there!

  8. mrsshukra
    May 27, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I have not seen this Chocal brand here but looks great!

  9. ANN*H
    June 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    i love chocolate so this would be fun to go to and check it all out.

  10. Dawn O
    August 15, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Last week I was on a Fathom ship and participated in the Impact Activity where we worked at the Chocal Factory. It was simply amazing. I was impressed with the many people who helped and the fact that they brought their teenagers to work along side them. Great lesson for everyone. Loved it……Dakota Dawn

  11. Krystle Bruggeman
    January 14, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Is there somewhere online or anywhere people can buy Chocal chocolate to help support this awesome cause?

  12. Valerie Mitchell
    January 14, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Hi Krystle –
    I’ve searched and can’t find at this time. I was in the DR on a Fathom Cruise, which is owned by Carnival. The chocolate may be available on other Carnival ships and can be bought at the Amber Cove port shopping area.

  13. santo
    January 14, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Is it possible to buy the chocolate from Chocal Cacao Factory in the US? If so can you tell me where I can buy some?

  14. Linda A. Lopez
    January 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

    We recently saw a program about this wonderful operation and were wondering if the confections are available for purchase in the US to help support the community there –

    Thank you!

  15. Bala
    April 5, 2017 at 2:19 am

    Great Info to know about the chocolate process .

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