Sachahuares

A lanky tree grows above the coffee bush. Heavy green and yellow gourd-like fruit hang from that tree’s branches and trunks; they look like spiraled Nerf footballs. Tiny, intricate flowers of the tree hang directly from the tree’s trunk, ready to begin the fruiting process all over again. A yellow toucan flies overhead and I know that I’ve arrived in the jungle. The whole place smells of rotting fruit.


We were walking through a layer of long dead cacao leaves and overripe, slippery mangos, scaring off tiny black honey bees and wasps as long as my pinky finger. We are harvesting those cacao pods with a tool that hadn't changed in centuries--a thin metal hook attached to a ten-foot-long stick. 


“Be careful,” Sabine warned us. “There have been lots of accidents.”


Reaching overhead, we set those sharp blades between the pods and their nearest branches. Sabine placed hers and with a quick jerk and a tug, sent the fruit into free fall. Mirko wouldn't be doing that part of the harvest for a few more years. In the mean-time, he twisted off the pods that sprouted from the tree’s trunk and low branches. We carried the yellow cacao fruits in satchels on our backs to the stone courtyard and piled them under Sabine’s mango tree to await the next part of the process, the cutting open of the pods and retrieving of the fruit covered seeds inside of them, which will then be fermented and dried and roasted and then ground before they even begin to become chocolate.