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79 Main Road
Governors Bay, Canterbury, 8971
New Zealand

First Days on The Cacao Plantation

Oonagh's Blog

First Days on The Cacao Plantation

Oonagh Browne

Oonagh Browne and Debbie Prior from She Universe in New Zealand, along with their teenage sons Caomh and Osho headed to Samoa for 10 days to stay with Floris who owns one of the cacao plantations from which we source our cacao beans...

From Oonagh:

Hi Everyone,

I thought I would share our journey thus far……….

Samoa is very different to Fiji. Not that there is any point or purpose to comparison but in some way it provides a reference point. The people are poor but there is a contentment and happiness here that is innate and tangible. Like true island life is being expressed. Actually to use the word poor is incorrect they are rich in a way of life that is beautiful.

The first day was a culture shock to the self as everything slowed down and we met Samoan time!!
It is abundant with growth and sustainability. Sustainability in the truest sense…..

We arrived on the farm at around 5.00 yesterday. A long road from the ocean up into the hills with small cacao farms along the way. It is Sunday and everyone rests, so very little activity to be seen.

We spotted our first Cacao Pods, beautiful colours of deep crimson pink to to yellowy green. The trees still thrilled me as they nestle unassuming amongst, coconut, papaya, mangoes, Taro, grapefruit, wild ginger and much more fruits, nuts and yumminess that I am just uncovering.

It was a treat to watch Debbie hold her first cacao pod.

We passed Floris's home and headed up to the main plantation. Hundreds of acres of Cacao, some cultivated and some wild. It is fantastic that there is NOTHING here that can harm you except perhaps a coconut landing on your head!!!

We got lost in the plantation - not physically lots but lost in the beauty and wonder of walking deeper and deeper into the realm of a tropical forest of cacao.

We collected many ripe pods, took photos and returned to the car and to Floris' home. Here we cracked open the pods and tasted the sweet tropical fruit.

The boys loved it. Different varieties gave different flavours. Some like pineapple sherbet as you suck the flesh but boy don't eat the bean!! The acidity is so intense.

We had a light dinner of omelette with wild tomatoes and spinach from outside the front door and then went to present the family with our Source to Bar chocolate made using their beans.

There was a mix of family here, some visiting from NZ and Australia. They LOVED the chocolate, Floris was thrilled. Her brother was impressed at what could be done with the beans. He was a little skeptical and has just been harvesting the beans for the local market. We had a long chat about fermenting, planting etc.

This morning we woke up to the sound of about 50 roosters!!! I headed out with Floris to gather coconuts to make the local breakfast of Koko Alaisa. Fresh coconut cream rice and cocoa. We dehusked the coconuts, drained the water and proceeded to make coconut cream by hand.

Floris' brother was rinsing the fermented beans (he tried 6 days ferment based on information I provided him with from Vietnam) and of course we had to capture that process on camera as they were laid out in the sun after being rinsed, ready to sun dry. 

The processes are very organic and natural. Nothing has every been sprayed on this land since the cacao was first planted. It is Floris' vision to re-cultivate the farm to the standard her Dad once had here. They are so open to discover new ways and know that the process followed for the local market will have to change for chocolate. Her brother, after meeting with us, is inspired by the challenge.

Cacao is an integrated part of Samoan life. There are many local dishes that use it. We hope to work our way through them all!! They roast the beans over skillets on open fires and then grind them by hand. Every Samoan family drink Koko Samoan every night, mixed with water and sugar.

And so there is a local market for the beans. The beans from this farm and village are not exported as of yet.

The family are really open to working with us….

After we had the excitement of making our own coconut cream, washed the fermented beans and laid them out to dry, it was time to attend the Village council who meet once a month and it just happens to be today!! The village elders were meeting - about 50 of the chiefs, 10 of he council and the head of the council. We gifted them chocolate and they are inviting us back this afternoon to discuss opportunities for the village and Koko after they have worked through their agenda for the day. It will probably involve Cava!!

We returned and went for a walk in he jungle with the whole family this morning and when it got too hot, we stopped, picked coconuts and drank the water and ate the fruit. Perfect morning tea…….I am writing down all the fruits that grow on this plantation - incredible.

This far: Pine trees, Pinneapple, Taro, Pawpaw, Mango, Bread Fruit, Grapefruit, Limes, Chilli, Wild Ginger, Cinnamon, Lama Nut, Noni, Lopa Nut….

And its only mid day - Siesta time!!!

The incredibleness, well there are so many, but one of the most astounding aspects of this farm is that it all grows on Lava rock, little bits of Lava/volcanic rocks cover the entire plantation.

The boys are doing amazingly - finding the heat a bit tough but adapting to life on the farm wonderfully.

Coamh just goes out get a coconut and cracks it open to drink! Osho is adjusting and so far has not seen any spiders!!

Love of love