Coagriscal and XOL Chocolate Factory (Part 10)

We’re staying in Hotel Bethania, Copan. It’s an odd mix. My “room” is more like an apartment with a huge entrance hall, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Complete overkill but then I didn’t book it so I guess I shouldn’t complain. However for all the surface glamour getting the shower to produce any water, hot or cold proved to be a challenge. Downstairs there was no sign of a breakfast offer. So a coffee and a muffin had to suffice. It reminded me of the slightly risqué term “all fur coat and no knickers!”

We were scooped up from our hotel and taken back to the offices of Coagriscal. The plan was to see some coffee followed by the cocoa plantation, view some peppers being grown and finally squeeze in a little culture as some Mayan archaeology was nearby.

We duly formed a convoy and headed up into the mountains. As you climb you are surrounded by coffee bushes. It seems there is no end to where it will grow. I’m not sure I’m overly comfortable with the consequences of coffee being planted in every nook and cranny. Thousands of acres of land that had previously been virgin forest was now reduced to coffee bushes and shade trees. When I asked about this and the danger of creating a mono-culture our colleagues appeared unconcerned. They felt they had a resilient eco-system, however it appeared to have come at the price of bio-diversity. It’s so easy to get all puritanical in a country desperate to grow their economy.

The setting is spectacular and one can’t help but admire the endeavour.

As we came down we passed another solar drying facility next to a conveniently located café. We eventually returned to base. Time was moving on and it looked as though a number of the plans we had for the day would have to be scrapped.  More food was produced, it was great but we really wanted to get on. Our Latin American cousins though see food as something not to be rushed, maybe we’ve got it all wrong.

Eventually we were taken on a tour of the processing facility and shown an impressive new plant under construction. Building and plant had come in at a cool U$3.5 million and been completely financed by the local bank. Clearly their view of the future was pretty positive.

Once again the volumes of coffee in the warehouses were impressive. There are literally hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of coffee waiting for buyers. That requires some very major financing especially in the face of a hugely volatile world coffee market.

So we came to our last tasting, a quick whiz around the co-ops latest offers and then over to the cacao plantation. Roberto kindly gave us a “speed date” version of his usual tour, cacao is so much more complicated than coffee. The “fruit” appears almost to have been stuck onto the tree and is quite alien in appearance. We cut one open and inside there are the nibs coated in a white soft pulp. It tastes quite exotic but has little relationship to the final product.

On we charged into the drying area a mix of trays and wooden fermentation boxes. Critical to the development of the final product. Once you’ve seen all of this you can’t help but want to buy the product and of course we all ended up in the shop desperate to lay our hands on something to bring home.

Time really was up, a few hasty goodbyes and it was back to our Hotel at breakneck speed to gather up our cases and for some a chance to grab a quick shower before the long journey home. Our driver must have had an appointment somewhere else that evening as we tore up the distance to the airport. Security is always frustrating, all our bags are pulled out we couldn’t work our why. It transpired that a gift of cane sugar looked suspect, that and a couple of tubes of bug spray.

We bought a few gifts for those waiting at home, grabbed some food and then it was time to board and say our goodbyes to Honduras. Next up New York and then home.   

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