Where Cacao comes from (La Candelaria, Minca)

A few weeks ago, in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, we visited La Candelaria- a beautiful, historic farm located in the misty hills above Minca. With organic avocados, bananas, lemons, coffee and cacao growing on the land, we quickly declared this place as farmland-paradise. After a 40 minute hike we were greeted with delicious homemade lemonade and incredible views, before learning all about where chocolate comes from (and tasting as much as possible of course!) 

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Coffee Beans at La Candelaria  

Coffee Beans at La Candelaria  

Roasted Cacao Beans  

Roasted Cacao Beans  

It’s a big statement, but we think it’s fair to say that chocolate is one of the best things on earth. It’s universally and historically loved; a perfect thing in both the best and worst of times in life. 

But the more we’ve pursued our passion for healthy cooking in the past few years, the more our bodies have begun craving chocolate in its purest form. A processed chocolate bar may give you a quick sugar fix, but you miss out on all of the rich, satisfying, healthy goodness that pure cacao contains.

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Unprocessed Cacao is literally full of antioxidants, iron, calcium, magnesium and much more, as well as boosting your serotonin and theobromine levels to make life a little happier. So chocolate is good for your health, but do your research and buy dark and organic whenever possible. The majority of Chocolate plantations use huge amounts of pesticides and fertilisers, as well as being incredibly unethical in how they treat their workers… so fair trade is always better if it’s on offer.

So, all chocolate starts its life growing from a Cacao tree. Each tree produces flowers and fruits, with each fruit pod containing 20-60 cacao beans. When you open up a pod, the beans are coated in a white, sticky and sweet liquid. 

Cacao tree flower  

Cacao tree flower  

A ripe cacao fruit  

A ripe cacao fruit  

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These beans are then fermented for around 7 days, in order to enhance taste and remove any residue. And then the beans are dried for a further 7 days. It's true that good things come to those who wait...

This is where two options happen: either the beans are roasted at high temperatures to produce Cocoa -or the beans are kept raw as Cacao. Raw cacao is a lot richer in nutrients than its processed partner, however Cocoa definitely still has benefits if you avoid products with added sugar.

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At La Candelaria, the beans were slowly roasted on a low heat to preserve nutrients, and then ground them into a paste. This was then moulded into blocks to be used for hot chocolate, homemade chocolates or to add into smoothies. And the most important bit: it tasted incredible, we could have eaten it all afternoon!

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Back in England, we love using raw cacao powder in smoothies, to make energy balls, mixed into porridge or even in our Mexican bean dish.  We've got a couple of simple recipes coming soon to show how we love to use this amazing ingredient. 

In the meanwhile, here’s some photos from our time in Minca; peaceful days amongst the trees, and star filled nights with lots of hot chocolate.

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Our hostel in Minca - Oscar's Place  

Our hostel in Minca - Oscar's Place  

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La Candelaria  

La Candelaria  

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Coffee Beans drying in the sun

Coffee Beans drying in the sun

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What's your favourite kind of chocolate? Have you ever tried using cacao powder? 

Little Andaman Island

As we rode through Little Andaman Island in the back of a jeep, a small part of us felt like we'd reached the end of the world. And it felt like pure magic, like a true adventure beginning to unfold.

Nowadays it’s rare to visit a place in the world that feels undiscovered, but Little Andaman still feels special in that respect. Its beaches are dramatic in their emptiness, the locals’ huge smiles are warm and genuine…and there isn’t a souvenir shop in sight.

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Despite its name, there isn’t actually much all ‘little’ about Little Andaman – it’s got a big heart, it’s large in size and the boat journey from Port Blair is around 10 hours long. With infrequent boats, no internet, vast rainforest and a few crocodiles (yes, really), this is definitely a place more suited for those wanting to escape the beaten path and feel truly disconnected. And while the longish journey and remote location puts a lot of tourists off, we practically skipped onto our boat and could have stayed forever more…

So here’s more about our favourite place we’ve ever been to and the kindest souls we had the pleasure of meeting…

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Blue View 

Our 10 day stay on Little Andaman was partly so great due to the home we made at Blue View Resort. Run by possibly the happiest and friendliest man in the whole of India, Bubba, we immediately felt so at home here in this basic but extremely welcoming hostel.

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There aren’t a lot of accommodation options on Little Andaman and on the first few days of our stay there were only 4 other tourists on the whole island. But while most of the hostel options are aesthetically similar, Bubba’s real priority is creating a contagiously happy and relaxed atmosphere for his family of guests. And it works so well. Our simple beach hut cost just 100RS (£1) per night with shared toilets, but more importantly we have incredible memories simply hanging out here with new friends and delicious food.

There were also 4 puppies clambering about the place during our stay…making hammock time even sweeter!

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Highlights: Butler Bay, Big Waterfall, The Lighthouse

There is a lot to explore on Little Andaman, from empty beaches to waterfalls to sweaty jungle trekking. These were our favourite three spots:

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Butler Bay

Butler Bay is the most famous beach on Little Andaman – a dreamy turquoise bay tucked away behind the forest. Despite being the island’s main attraction, we only saw around 2 other people on the beach during all our visits. This is also a great spot for surfing – boards are available to rent on the island if you ask at your accommodation. We opted for the sloth-like option and buried ourselves in books and mangos.

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The Big Waterfall 

The Island has 2 main waterfalls, helpfully referred to as the little and big waterfalls. We heard great things about the latter (official name: Whisper Wave Waterfall) and found ourselves flung into a day-long adventure getting there on our first full day. Located deep into the jungle, getting there yourself requires renting a motorbike/moped, driving on tricky terrain for 1-2 hours and then over an hour trek in the jungle. As you can imagine, it feels like quite an achievement finally arriving there, and it's worth it to see this beautiful waterfall and its surroundings.

It is possible to rent a guide to get you there, but we really enjoyed the journey and it was a great day trip with a few people. It sound obvious, but make sure to get clear directions before you leave! Annoyingly we didn't bring our camera, but trust us, it's cool! 

Lighthouse Beach

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Near the islands' lighthouse lies the favourite bit of beach we visited. White sand and crystal clear, shallow water make this place seem almost unreal. I definitely had to pinch myself when we arrived here...

There's also some really beautifully rugged beaches on the road past the jetty, so we recommend exploring there!

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Food

The food on Little Andaman was one of our favourite parts of Island life – with endless fresh coconuts, incredible fish and classic Indian dishes. Mainland India is a very cheap place to travel, but Little Andaman was even cheaper.  Any place where fresh fish fry costs 60RS (60p) and mangos are 30RS (30p) for a kilo (!) is our version of paradise. Oh and you can find small lobsters for 120RS (£1.20)!

Hut Bay is the main place to get food on the island but, weirdly, most places close during lunchtime hours (12 onwards). Everywhere begins to open again from 3pm onwards, so it’s best to adjust your mealtimes accordingly and buy lots of snacks!

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Some of the nicest memories we have are from this special island and it's warm-hearted people. For more island life, check out our posts on Neil Island and Ross Island.