Hotel Bougainvillea Costa Rica

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A glimpse at a day in the life of…

Doing a cut test of the beans we brought back from Panama
Robbie building a post-roast cooling screen.
Screen for cooling beans done and done. And proud of it too.
Anna shuffles the beans around as they cool (they cool quickly when the air temperature is +-50F). Nice Converge hoodie, Anna.
Gluten-free, dairy-free, poppy seed, and cacao nib pancakes. Dreamy.
What’s the most important thing in life? Breakfast. Especially gluten-free, dairy-free, poppy seed, and cacao nib pancakes.
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Beans, Boulder and the Biz

As of late, we’ve often heard the question, “When will you be selling chocolate?” Big long “sigh.” If starting a business were easy, we’d have bounds of chocolate awaiting your oral pleasure, but of course, that isn’t the case.

Not only are we starting a business, but we are beginning an adventure in chocolate making. Initially it doesn’t sound too difficult, but there are many things that we need to consider before becoming an established chocolate producer. Some of these speed bumps are as follows: sourcing good beans, becoming an importer, becoming certified organic and fair trade if possible, producing a kick ass bar of chocolate, wrapper design, finding a building that is safe for food production, finding and acquiring the right equipment, writing the business plan, etc, etc, etc… Did I mention raising start-up money and coming up with a name that is worthy of who we are and the quality of chocolate that we make?

Despite the many speed bumps, hurdles and steeplechases, we’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve found several bean growers that we are very, very, very excited about. We’re becoming more and more confident with our chocolate making skills with every new batch and we’re learning that experience is the best teacher. Finally, we have a great circle of support and we wouldn’t want to start making chocolate in any other city than Boulder.

Everyday is a learning experience and we love every minute of it. Making (good) chocolate is very challenging, which is actually part of the reason we chose to make chocolate. As in most aspects of life, the biggest challenges are the most rewarding, and this is proving to be the most difficult task that we have encountered. On the bright side, if we’re ever in doubt, all we have to do is taste some of our chocolate and we’ll remember why we decided to do this in the first place.

I just wanted to give a quick update about what we are up to and that we still plan to be Boulder’s first bean to bar chocolate company. Today I roasted two test batches of beans from a farm in Costa Rica. They are not as fruity as our last batch but I think they should produce a very good, well-rounded chocolate. But first, we’re going to make a batch of white chocolate tomorrow for Anna’s sister’s birthday (she’s a fan of white chocolate).

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Organic vs. Conventional Bananas… ORGANIC!

 

While we were down in Costa Rica searching for beans, we learned dozens of lessons, one of them was about conventional banana farming practices. What we learned is that conventional banana farming is a bad thing. Buy organic.

If you’d like to know more about why, check out our article at the Elephant Journal.

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Taking a break while hot on the trail of good beans

Prepare to be cheesified…

During our time down in Costa Rica we took a couple days to cool off… or should I say… heat up at the hot springs around the Arenal Volcano. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so check out the ultra-homemade video below:

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We’re back from Costa Rica!

 

Our three weeks in Costa Rica and Panama proved to be a very good learning experience. There’s at least a couple stories for every day we were there. I think I shot upwards of a 1000 photos and almost an hour of video footage and I can’t wait to share it with you all soon.

For now I’d just like to share a few photos from the trip.

One of the indigenous farmers we visited required taking a canoe up the river. This also means that for them to deliver their beans, they have to go the same route.
After the canoe ride up the river we had to ride in the back of a cattle truck on dirt roads to reach the farm.
This is a Capuchin monkey. He was very angry with us for walking through his territory.
A coffee shop in Puerto Viejo was serving chocolate shots, similar to an espresso shot without sugar, using beans from a nearby cooperative.
At this cacao farm we enjoyed a few coconut refrescos.
A farmer drops off some of his organic beans at this cooperative in Panama.
This is what a well maintained cacao grove looks like.
Unlike most fruits, the cacao pod can grow directly from the trunk of the tree. (However, these might not be Theobroma Cacao… I think they are some other Theobroma species)
We found an entire river that was hot right next to a hot spring business that was charging $100 per person.
I know this photo is obscene, but it’s the closest shot I got of a howler monkey.
This tree was filled with a family of howler monkeys but they were quite far away.
Try finding some of these books at your local library… We didn’t.
Caribbean postcard shot. Cahuita.
While at one of the indigenous farms we found a poison arrow frog—they are only poisonous if they get into your bloodstream.
We were told that this snake has enough venom to kill five adults.
We needed a photo posing next to a cacao tree right?
It’s harder to catch waves on a bike.
We spent a morning snorkling off the coast of Cahuita—we mostly saw schools of fish and sting rays.
This very large spider was on the balcony of one of our hotels.
The mucilage around a cacao seed is very enjoyable.
We saw this three-toed sloth just as it was climbing down a large tree to take his tri-weekly poop, which apparently is a rare thing to witness.
At this farm the workers use a series of cable lines to bring large amounts of cacao back to the processing center in one trip. This guy is carrying about 700-800 pounds…
This cacao farm is the home of about 40 to 50 wild two-toed sloths.

We had dinner two nights in a row at this restaurant because the view of the Arenal volcano was so breathtaking.

We weren’t 100% sure that we’d be able to bring beans back for testing, but we successfully brought back over 60 pounds.
And yes, we started a batch our first morning back. We were very excited to put all of our new knowledge to use.
Cheers,
Robbie and Anna
Posted in anna, bean to bar, cacao, chocolate, costa rica, panama, robbie, travel | 2 Comments

Radio Silence March 6-28

If you’re reading this, chances are Anna or I gave a you a sample of our latest Panama batch, which has our web address right above “Made in Boulder, Colorado.” You might even have a few questions you’d like to ask. Let me breakdown any questions you might have about us as briefly as I can (it’s past my bedtime and I know that it’s a sin to ask for more than 2 minutes of attention for a single webpage).

Who: Anna and Robbie. At the moment the name of our brand is Chocolate Baar, which is an acronym for “By Anna And Robbie.” We have other titles that we are seriously considering but this will do for now.

What: We make chocolate from the bean to the bar, which is different than simply being a chocolatier—we are chocolate makers. We source our beans from around the world with a focus on Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

Where: Currently, we are just experimenting on small-scale equipment with the chocolate making process at home in Boulder, Colorado.

When: Making chocolate has been a dream of ours since about June 2009. From March 6th to March 28th we will be in Costa Rica with the goal of securing a few good cacao sources. If everything goes as planned, we hope to be in full production by June, exactly a year since chocolate making was just a dream.

If you have tried our chocolate, we’d like to know what you think. If you have any questions (how to get some, about us, what we’re listening to right now), please feel free to write. While we’re in Costa Rica we’ll be away from our phones and computers, so don’t expect to hear from us until about April 1st.

Yours truly,

Anna and Robbie

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