After almost 3 years, Geomar is returning to Venezuela to take a comprehensive, month-long course focusing on all aspects of cacao management, harvest & post-harvest methods, and chocolate making. This is a certified course which is lead by Arturo Somana, director of the Cacao Macuare Foundation this January and has a capacity of 25 participants. Taking this course will help us better assist the rural cacao producers with advanced growing, harvesting and post-harvest methods to bring higher-quality cacao to market. The grueling 3-day journey to Caracas for the course starts from Quito, Ecuador and includes transportation on bus, on foot and three puddle jumpers.
Course Description & Syllabus
After graduating, the course description says we will "be capable of recognizing the importance of genetics in the quality and productivity of the crop and the final product. Understand the importance of having quality seed and the correct application of methods and techniques of good management of plantations with adequate methods of controlling the biotic factors that affect the crop. Also, be able to recognize and apply the proper methods of harvesting, fermenting and drying cocoa beans and will be able to use quality analysis methods of cocoa beans. Be able to correctly apply artisan techniques for the transformation of cocoa beans into derivatives and final products such as butter or liqueur. Have the tools to recognize the social and economic importance of the product and the primary transformer in the cocoa agro-productive chain as a mechanism of empowerment in production processes."
Cacao Agriculture Practices
- Thematic area: Methods of propagation in cocoa. Installation and maintenance of nurseries
- Types of cocoa, characteristics. Germplasm banks as a source of variability and genetic quality
- Organoleptic characteristics of cacao varieties
- Sexual propagation: parts of the flower, natural and directed pollination; parts of the fruit. Benefits of sexual propagation. Practical demonstrations on pollination. The asexual propagation: Types of asexual propagation in cocoa.
- Preparation of mother plants. Maintenance of cloned plants. Grafting, micro-grafting and layering demonstrations.
- Criteria for the selection of the area, areas of a nursery, required materials, construction of the nursery.
- Preparation of the substrate for sowing. Maintenance of plants and nursery. Conditioning of cocoa seed.
- Thematic area: Management of plantations, cultural work, rehabilitation and renewal of the cocoa crop
- Plantation Framework. Sowing distance, temporary and permanent shade.
- Methods of propagation and multiplication. Weed control techniques, maintenance of drains
- Practice session: Maintenance of plantations. Use of tools for pruning, demonstration of pruning and pruning by participants.
- Thematic area: Management of insects associated with cocoa
- Recognition of beneficial insects and insect pests associated with cocoa. Measures to control insect pests associated with cocoa, control practices and methods of capture. Application of cold traps.
- Thematic area: Disease management in cocoa
- Content: Recognition of diseases of the cocoa crop. Identification of symptoms in the field, practical demonstration of disease management and application of prophylactic measures.
Harvest and Post-Harvest/Cacao Transformation
- Thematic area: Harvest
- Content: Harvest periods. Harvesting, tools for the harvest, care-demonstration of harvest, waste management of composting and composting. Application of good harvest practices.
- Thematic area: Postharvest handling. Grain quality Primary transformation of cocoa
- Content: Fermentation and fermentation methods. Importance of fermentation. Drying and types of drying. Storage. Quality of the cocoa bean benefited. Cut tests. Quality parameters. ISO standards. Physical analysis Processing of cocoa beans; toasted and descaling.
- Moledular transformation of flavors
- Obtaining nibs, grinding, obtaining liquor, pressing to obtain cocoa butter and powder. Preparation of cocoa butter and production of chocolates.
The transformation of flavors segment will hopefully prove to be as exciting as it sounds. The idea is that through the various natural process, it is possible to coax out flavors such as mango & passion fruit—among many, many others. As Geomar is able, he will be writing up details of each segment of the course and try to send them several times a week to be transcribed into English along with sending a few snapshots. We then will post on the RoyalCacao website in January if time and technology permit...basically, if there is Internet. But if there are technical issues, we will add the posts with the course details in February when he returns.
Personally, Geomar is very excited to return to Venezuela to take this course despite the difficult trip. Geomar came to Ecuador almost 3 years ago and has not had the opportunity to return to his home country where he still has family. He still has many strategic contacts in Venezuela which has made this opportunity possible. Also, while in Venezuela, he will be taking some exploratory trips to follow up on sources for Porcelana Cacao. Our plans include returning to Venezuela later this year and follow up on the Porcelana Cacao contacts with the idea we will export that to the United States in the short-term future.
In Bus, on Foot and Puddle Jumper—We're Going to Venezuela
January 2, 2018 starts Geomar's somewhat dangerous 1,166 mile journey to Venezuela which includes about 20 hours in various buses, three hops in small planes and a quick trip to his condo to grab some supplies.
The trip starts at the Carcelen bus terminal in the north of Quito where the overnight bus leaves late on January 2nd and 7 hours later arrives at the Ecuador–Colombia border at the Rumichaca Bridge where all passengers depart the bus and walk over the bridge to Colombia.
On the other side of the Rumichaca Bridge in Colombia, Geomar will grab a bus for a short, 2 hour ride to the Pasto Airport and take a puddle jumper for a few hours northeast over the Andes to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, then board another plane to the Cucuta Airport on the Colombia–Venezuela border. In Cucuta, he will arrange the paperwork for crossing the border and then take a bus for three hours to Puerto Santander, Colombia where he will cross the footbridge there to enter Venezuela.
then, traveling by bus for another 5 hours to his house in Merida, Venezuela grabbing supplies there and then hopping on another small plane to Caracas, Venezuela for the month-long course.