Dominican Republic Cacao Factory
A tour of a Dominican Republic Cacao factory, was a highlight of my trip to this Caribbean island nation. Chocolate is always a treat, so it was great to learn more about how it is made.
Chocal 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.
These 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. They are now getting much needed work experience, so that they, too, can provide for their families.
Cacao trees are started in a nursery and then planted in a more permanent location. The pods look beautiful hanging on the mature trees.
It was fascinating to tour the nursery in addition to the factory.
Hand Sorting the Beans
Our tour group broke up into smaller groups, so that we could actually try the different work stations.
We sorted the dried cacao and removed the beans that weren’t good enough to be made into chocolate.
And we 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.
I’m really impressed at the skill these women have during each step of the process.
Then we poured melted chocolate into molds, which were then chilled prior to packaging.
This was time consuming for us, since it does take a lot of skill and practice to get it right.
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.
Chocolate Bars in Molds
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!
Dominican Hot Chocolate
I had a great time at Chocal.
It was great to learn 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.
Was it actually helpful for our group to work alongside them? No.
They are much better at their jobs than we were. More chocolate could have been produced without our disruption, but I’m grateful for the opportunity
However, there is one big way in which we benefited them. We spent a lot of money in their gift store, so this is a profitable business model for them.
I bought chocolate bars and hot chocolate mix to take home with me. They also had cacao wine and some handcrafted items. US dollars were welcomed.
It was a good day.
Camino Palmar Grande
Altamira, Puerto Plato