For more than 10 years Tres Hombres is carrying cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic back to Amsterdam.
On Thursday, the 24th of February the Tres crew went on a field trip to the backland of the island to meet the farmers of the cooperative Conacado. The inner backland is the agricultural centre of the country. On the 3 hours bus trip to San Francisco, we saw large plantations of rice and banana passing along the street. The cooperative is a local enterprise that hosts 10.000 cocoa farmers. The annual production is approximately 80.000 tons of cocoa. The small farms are up to a size of 20ha to avoid a monoculture in the area.
Cosme Guerrero, the operational manager, explained the mission of Conacado. Farmers get support from specialists to plant organic cocoa to the highest sustainability standards to increase the crop. They are also shareholders and decision-makers in the annual assembly. This mission results in a higher resilience and independence of the farmer. It also improves the price stability of cocoa and increases the social-political impact of these communities.
Cosme gave us a tour around the modern factory. They produce cocoa powder, oil and butter. In the labs, samples are tested to receive the quality requirement of the licenses. In the factory, the shell of the cocoa bean is separated to be used as a natural fertilizer. In another step, the beans got roasted and ground before becoming the final products. Everything is automated and controlled by computer programs. Solar power is covering 20% of the energy consumption of processing cocoa from 4,2-4,6 Mwh. At the end of our tour, we have got a delicious hot chocolate from their own production. In exchange, we brought some of the chocolate that gets produced in Amsterdam with their beans.
After a local meal with local food, we drove to the village Comedero to visit one of the plantations of organic cocoa. First, the cocoa beans are fermented for 6 days, the process of fermentation increases the flavour of the cocoa. Many customers, like the Europeans, prefer a stronger cacao flavour. On the site, there are greenhouses to dry the cocoa beans. For eight days the beans have to be dried and turned every 45 min with a wooden rake.
On the plantation, the cocoa trees there are up to 80 years old and grow happily in a humid warm climate. The harvest time is between February and May when the fruits are turning yellow and orange. All fruits are harvested by hand. Manuel, one of the farmers who was showing us the plantation emphasized there is a change due to the global warming effect in the last years. Longer dry periods and longer wet periods put the plants under stress with the result of a lower crop and shorter lifespan.
In the late afternoon, we went back by bus passing picturesque villages and landscapes and arrived at our ship at 8 pm. It was a very inspiring trip for all of us.
We gained a deeper understanding and relationship of the farming and processing of cocoa and we were impressed by the strong social mission of the cooperation Conacado. The next day we received 10 tons of cocoa beans in bags of 70kg for the Chocolate Makers in Amsterdam. Their fermented aroma will guide us on our way back to Amsterdam.
The most important destination to pick up cargo for the Tres Hombres, has been since the beginning, the Dominican Republic. This is the place where the Amsterdam Chocolate makers source their organic cacao. This is the place where the first editions 2010, 2011 and 2012 Tres Hombres rum came from. Later off course Andreas also found an excelent rum distilery on La Palma. The distilery with the ancient copper distilling aparatus… Year after year, Andreas added other Atlantic and Caribbean islands, to load as much as a variety as possible, for our fine rum.
But untill these days, the Domincan Republic, always has been the origin of the main cargo. Sometimes there where different other products added. There has been a long standing relationship with Belarmino from Caribbean labs, as a source for coffee, honey, cacao and the famous mamajuana. Year after year we have been taking big barrels of molasses for a rum distillery in Germany. On a small and experimental scale we have been taking cigars from Hispaniola, what the combined name is for the island which the Dominican Republic and Haiti share as their landbase. The cigars proved a tricky cargo to comply with the customs, so we did not continue this.
As for the ports, in this Caribbean jewel, our fine vessel has been, there are: the open roadstead of Cabo Rojo, the metropole of Santo Domingo, and the commercial port of Boca Chica. Cabo Rojo, is a place of tropical athmosphere, with white beaches. Where even the footage of an “commercial” for the rum, starring Capt. Andreas Lackner himself as the sea (movie) star, was shot. This was also the first place where the ship was anchored for three weeks in 2010, to repair the rigging after the topgallant mast was broken. Santo Domingo, is the biggest city in the Caribbean with three million inhabitants. Here the ship moored in 2010 as well, just after visiting Cabo Rojo, and this is where Capt. Andreas met Mr Forrest who introduced us to the fine port of Boca Chica.
Since that day Boca Chica has been our most important loading port in the entire Caribbean. It is a place one will never forget about, when entered or left by a ship under sail power only. Sailing in between the reefs and breakers through a narrow buoyed channel. Dealing with the officers on the gate of the comercial port. And drinking rum with the local “shipping magnates”. A port of extremes, a port where the crew of our brigantine, loads the barrels and bags by hand into the cargo hold, while a few hunderd meters away the most high tech container cranes are discharging the biggest container ships. A port with a fishing harbor where the most tiny fishing boats fish from. A port where every weekend the sound of merengue, salsa and bachata, mixed with the tropical heat and smell of fried fish and fresh ocean breeze are competing. This is the Caribbean…
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
Message from the IJ-Kantine, Amsterdam.
From saturday the 6th of June it is possible to enjoy a real Tres Hombres dinner at restaurant the IJ-kantine. As soon as sailing cargo vessel is moored at the our quay (Friday evening) our chefs and the captain of the ship will dive into the cargohold to find the products to cook with. They will make a sailor worthy menu out of this.
The captain already send us a message that among the products will be Tuna from the Acores (sustainable fished) , chocolate from grenada and Tres Hombres Rum from the Domincan Rep. Check our Menupage for more information.
During dinner you can enjoy a glass of Tres Hombres Rum. The 10th of June she will leave again and we’ll wish her fair winds and save sails.
Vanaf zaterdag 6 juni kun je genieten van het Tres Hombres Menu @ restaurant café de IJ-kantine. Zo gauw het fair trade zeilschip de ‘Tres Hombres’ is aangemeerd aan ons privé ponton op vrijdagavond 5 juni, duiken onze koks samen met de kapitein het scheepsruim in. Met de fair trade producten die ze daar aantreffen, stellen ze een fair menu samen: een zeeman waardig Tres Hombres menu.
De Kapitein heeft ons al ingeseind dat hij sowieso tonijn uit de Azoren (duurzaam gevist), chocolade uit Grenada en rum uit de Caribbean bij zich heeft. Wat het Tres Hombres menu precies gaat worden, kun je zien als je op het Tres Hombres Menu op onze home page klikt.
Op woensdagochtend 10 juni vertrekt hun boot weer richting waar de wind hen heen waait.
Voor informatie over de Tres Hombres, check: www.fairtransport.eu
Tres Hombres arriveert weer in Amsterdam na een rondreis van 9 maanden! Dit maal met een ruim vol met cacaobonen, koffie en rum. We nodigen iedereen uit om ons mee te komen helpen met het lossen van de cacao van de Chocolatemakers Amsterdam en de balen cacao naar de chocolade fabriek te brengen. Bakfiets, paard en wagen, electrische auto, alles mag, als het maar CO2 neutraal is! Volg het facebook-event voor de laatste details!
5th of June at 14:00 at the Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10 H, 1021 KB Amsterdam, Netherlands)
And here we are again, sailing away from the beautiful island of Grenada. We had a short but intense stay and we felt very welcome there. The cargo hold has a wonderful smell of chocolate and cacao beans. Two days ago we were invited to visit the cacao plantations and the chocolate factory that produced the organic cacao beans and chocolate bars that we transport to the UK. The french television crew from the program Thalassa also went with us. It was surprising to discover what is actually behind a chocolate bar. I was expecting huge fields of little, well aligned plants burned by the sun like in a cotton field. What I found there was a little forest of cacao trees, growing amongst other plants and fruits with piles of orange and yellow cocoa fruits gathered on the ground that added patches of color to the scene. In the forest, groups of workers were opening the coca fruits using long machetes and emptying the beans in buckets before carrying them to the farm. The gestures were fast and precise. One of the workers was wearing an old Tres Hombres t-shirt.
We also visited the farm itself, were the cocoa beans are set to ferment during nearly a week before being dried in the sun. If they were to be exported, they would also be polished to look shinny and appealing for the market but since the foundation of the Grenada Chocolate Company, almost 15 years ago, the cocoa beans are processed just one mile away up the road.
The chocolate factory is a little colorful house with just one floor and some solar panels in the garden. Belmond was waiting for us there. He had organized a meal and some drinks for us but the cooking had not started yet so we got to help in the preparation of the traditional dish and we lighted the fire to cook the vegetables. In the mean time Belmond gave tours of the factory. It is so small that we hardly fitted with five or six of us in the rooms. There are just a few machines there and a table to pack the chocolate bars. Of course we tasted all the different blends of chocolate and tasted them again and again !
Upstairs is an open room with the office and a balcony. An older lady is sitting there – she must be eighty years old – in front of a table filled with cocoa beans; she is sorting them out to remove damaged beans and remains of wood and stones from the plantation. In front of her, on the wall, a picture of the Tres Hombres under sail, and a portrait of Mott Green. He has been the initiator of this chocolate factory and everyone seems to know him on the island. Later she will tell to Arjen the story of the day Mott passed away two years ago, but her voice will become so low that I wont be able to follow.
Yesterday was already time for loading the chocolate and leaving the island. As on our arrival, the Thalassa film crew was there with drones and cameras. Two of them are sailing along with us until Bonaire to make images on board. It is time to sail towards new adventures but we will come back to Grenada for more stories, more exchange and more chocolate !
Picture by Lucy Gilliam
The story of the Chocolatemakers who make the famous Tres Hombres Chocolate bars.. Have a look!