A visit to a Cocoa Farm: While in Ecuador, we visited a cocoa farm, where they grow and process chocolate cocoa from the fruit of the cacao tree ((Theobroma cacao). The tree is grown throughout the wet lowland ecosystems near the Mangroves of Ecuador. These trees prefer to be in the shade of taller trees. Its thick trunk supports a canopy of large, leathery, oblong leaves.
The small, foul-smelling,
pinkish flowers are borne directly on the branches and trunk; they are followed by the fruit,
or pods, each yielding 20-40 seeds, or cocoa beans. Once the fruit is harvested, it is dried and
ground into a cocoa powder. At the farm we were treated to a delicious hot cocoa made simply
from the ground beans, some water, and a little bit of cinnamon. It was a delicious treat, thanks
to the tropical rain forest we can enjoy it anytime.