MY CACAO FARM - EL TESORO
I have been growing cocoa since 1996 at the Hacienda El Tesoro, my beautiful cocoa farm in the breath-taking heights of the Henri Pittier National Park in Venezuela. I am a cocoa farmer first and an artisan chocolate maker second. This is what has enabled me to make chocolate from bean to bar as I do. I have the experience to know exactly what beans I want and to buy them directly from the farmers.
I had never intended to become a cacao farmer. I visited the farm quite by chance and fell immediately in love the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. It was my first miraculous taste of hot chocolate made from my El Tesoro beans that opened my eyes to real chocolate.
On the mountainside we simply heated cacao liquor with water and a touch of cane sugar. I had never tasted anything like it, such delicious and distinct flavours, quite unlike sugary fatty confection we have come to know as chocolate. It gave me an extraordinary physical feeling of energy and wellbeing.
I set out on a mission to help the world re-discover the magical ingredient that ancient south American peoples, the Mayans and Aztecs, knew as the food of the gods; a heady, intoxicating experience that is light years away from modern mass market chocolate confectionary in which the cacao content is eclipsed by fat and sugar.
I was in my element living on the farm. The mountainside became an extension of my kitchen. There were mango and nutmeg trees on the lawn. We’d climb shade trees and collect the vanilla pods. Ginger plants love it beneath the cacao trees, shaded by their smooth bright green oblong leaves. I had jars of infusions of every edible plant, fruit or root we could find. It was constant experimentation and of course there was nothing I didn’t try making using cacao.
You may be surprised to discover that my single estate cacao beans aren’t grown in neat rows and plantations like you see expect to see most farmed crops and These types of cacao are farmed under the shade trees in the rainforest, alongside other crops, using traditional methods. It is very different to large monoculture plantations in Africa..
● Learn about the sustainable and traditional practice of how I farm my single estate cacao beans.
● The single estate cacaos I use at Willie's Cacao