Tom and I are both, as it turns out, the type of people who would be able to fill a to-do list while being held in a 5×8 concrete jail cell. I can see it now:

[ ]  Wake up

[ ] Do 50 push-ups

[ ] Make up a song about coffee

[ ] Edit yesterday’s song “I like oatmeal”

[ ] Count out square inches of cell

[ ] Come up with 3 new and interesting hairstyles

We just seem to find projects to do all of the time. I mean we are living in the jungles of Panama, and somehow still do not have enough hours in the day for all of our li’l self-assigned tasks and projects.

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Deciding to quit our jobs in San Diego and follow our own pursuits has landed us the most unyielding, demanding taskmasters of bosses we have ever had – ourselves. After visiting the cacao farm/processing plant of our (wonderful!!) neighbors Dave and Linda we got another one of our wild hairs.

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Though there are no producing cacao trees on the property (YET; see below) Vicente, the landscaper, brought us a single cacao pod from his farm.

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Well of course we weren’t just going to let it go to waste! And so we put our knowledge from Dave and Linda and from the class we took in Cusco (see post: from the beans to the bar) to good use and starting building a processing plant for our one cacao. We split it open, built a wooden box for fermentation, bashed open our pod, starting fermenting the majority of the seeds and planted three in different places on the property.

After sucking the pulp off them of course. The pulp tastes like a not quite ripe mango- tart and delicious!

Really the only amazing thing about us spending the time to process one cacao pod is that we found time to do it between making homemade yogurt, building apps, doing yoga on the deck, arranging flowers, trying to teach the bird and dogs new tricks, wrangling jellyfish, writing and illustrating a children’s story, practicing cutting grass with a machete, sewing pajama pants, target practice with the airsoft rifle, harvesting citrus, making 10 different hummus flavors, creating new juice combinations, pickling beets and red onions,  improving our push-up form, making our own sprouts for salads, building new and complex winnowing contraptions for the neighbor’s cacao processing operation, spelunking the local caves and creating complicated face hors d’oeuvres.

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As it turns out processing one cacao did not work out too well for us; the seeds molded during the fermentation stage.

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Never ones to admit defeat we promptly bought 50 pods and I am happy to say that this time the fermenting, drying, roasting, shelling, grinding and cooking into li’l truffle treats process went off without a hitch.

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Once we finished the whole process and discovered exactly what goes into making your own chocolate “from the beans to the bar” the nature of processing cacao changed for us. It ceased to be a one-time project, and became instead another item to add  to our never-ending to-do list. As such, here we are with round two.

Would anyone like a little vanilla with their chocolate?


I think of California as officially "home" but can usually be found a lot closer to the equatorial belt. After finishing a Masters program in 2011 I found myself trying to decide between a couple of different high-powered career options. I decided I wasn't quite ready to "grow up" and went with an entirely different plan which involved selling off everything I owned with my partner Tom and buying a one-way ticket to Colombia. Our plan was to travel "Till The Money Ran Out" and then go home to start our grown-up lives. Instead, we started our own app development company on the road and have been criss-crossing the globe, traveling, working, eating spicy food and refusing to "grow up" ever since. You can find me on Twitter, , Facebook or send me a message using our About Us page.

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9 Responses

  1. Jill says:

    Nice Crow Pose Jenny!

    LOVE the Cocoa project. How amazing to make chocolate from pods to little bricks. I am envious of the new things you two are discovering together.

  2. Ann says:

    What a great pic at the top of this one–you look like Venus and Adonis! Wish I could taste your home made chocolate!

  3. Shawna Ghafouri says:

    I kid you not, I was going to e-mail you today about the cacao!!! AMAZING! Wish I could have been there for the whole process. Are those cacao ice cube molds? Wish I never came back.

    Miss you both!

  4. Shoko & Harald says:

    Hi Jenny & Tom..loved all your postings, knew most places from being my old stomping grounds-spend much time in Cahuita not far from Bocas, while you, Tom were in a cradle in San José. Also walked from Sautata/Colombia to Yaviza/Panama after my bike broke down in the Darien. Keep those postings rolling in, and should you want to visit Hamburg (the most beautiful town in the world) – we have a guest house ready 4 u

  5. Philip says:

    Great story. I think I need to eat some chocolate now.

  6. Martha Krones says:

    The second graders at my school study the rain forest each year, and I always give them a presentation with pictures of you and Rebeca in Iscozacin. I want to add your chocolate-making pictures this year.

    Love you,

  7. Charles Decelles says:

    I love projects that help you learn how things are done from A-Z. The cacao project is awesome and I bet those truffle treats were too!

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