Cocoa farms attract tourists to southern Bahia

Fazendas de cacau em Ilhéus
Cocoa farms in Ilhéus

Famous for its beautiful beaches, Bahia is betting on a new tourist craze: the exploitation of cocoa farm tourism in the southern region.

Brazil, which was once the second largest producer of cocoa in the world, has returned to exporting.

The cocoa farms of Ilhéus and the region offer guided tours that present the entire cycle of the fruit, from its planting to the processes carried out after harvest, fundamental for the production of chocolates.

Ilhéus reserves destinations for those who want to visit cocoa farms.

Well known for the writings of Jorge Amado and for having been the setting for “Gabriela, Cravo e Canela”, the city of Ilhéus, in the south of Bahia, is usually a destination for tourists who do not give up heat and good beaches.

No wonder, since the municipality has the longest coastline in Bahia, with almost 100 km of extension.

What not everyone knows, however, is that the region experienced its peak mainly during the 1920s, when cocoa guaranteed the enrichment of several families who exported the main product used to make chocolate.

After years and years of prosperity, the arrival of the plague called witches’ broom devastated the local cocoa plantations in mid-1989.

mapa da Costa do Cacau na Bahia
map of the Cocoa Coast in Bahia

Still recovering and learning to live with the problem, the city reserves good destinations for those who are willing to learn how a cocoa plantation works, from planting to drying the almonds (as the cocoa “stones” are called), in addition to discovering differences between the most diverse types of cocoa.

Videos about the cocoa farms between Ilhéus and Uruçuca

Chocolate Route or Road – Visits to Cocoa Farms

On the stretch of road between Ilhéus and Uruçuca, in the area called the Cocoa Coast, in the south of Bahia, a true gastronomic route is being formed. It is the “chocolate road”.

On the route of the “chocolate road”, there is, for example, promotion of rural experiences. Restaurants and shops selling cocoa products are some of the options available in the region.

According to the Bahia Tourism Secretariat (Setur-BA), more than 80 brands in the chocolate sector are setting up their activities in the region, which has 13 cocoa producing farms.

The south of Bahia is the region that produces the most cocoa and derivatives in the state, which, by the way, is the largest producer of the fruit in the country.

1. Provision Farm

Fazenda Provisão is open to all those who wish to have a differentiated experience with nature, the history of the region, the cocoa culture, in a cosy atmosphere with the smell, taste and climate typical of a traditional farm.

Highway Ilhéus – Uruçuca, km 27. Operation: Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 5pm.

2. Yrerê Farm

Right at the entrance to Yrerê Farm, located on the Jorge Amado Highway.

The Yrerê Farm is open to visitors.

With colourful and extremely cosy decoration, the place makes an almost irrefutable invitation to visit the “offline world”.

In a tour that lasts about two hours, the hosts present a small trail in the shade of the Atlantic Forest, with cocoa trees along the way.

It is the guide who makes a point of emphasising every detail of the place during the walk, from the history of the property, which accumulates more than two centuries, to information about the quality and planting of cocoa.

With a machete, he opens some fresh fruits, taken straight from the tree, and allows guests to feast on the white pulp, quite fleshy and tasty – but not at all reminiscent of the taste of chocolate.

In addition to rural tourism, the manufacture of rustic furniture and handicrafts, the couple recently bet on their own brand of fine chocolates, made with selected almonds. They are available in 54% and 70% cocoa versions.

Large soft and colourful sofas, rustic benches or even a hammock invite visitors to rest after walking amidst the greenery.

The Yreré Farm is located on the banks of the Cachoeira River in the shadow of the Atlantic Forest of southern Bahia, at kilometre eleven of the Jorge Amado highway (Ilhéus/Itabuna).

3. Vila Rosa Chocolates

Vila Rosa, which offers visitors an immersion in the world of chocolate.

Vila Rosa, no distrito de Taboquinhas, em Itacaré (BA)
Vila Rosa, no distrito de Taboquinhas, em Itacaré (BA)

The itinerary includes knowing the artisanal production process, from the cocoa bean to the chocolate bar.

On the tour it is possible to make trails through the Atlantic Forest, orchards, gardens, natural pools and visit the old mansion with the right to taste excellent flavours of handmade chocolates as well as other derivatives of the fruit such as Cocoa Honey (made from the nectar and which gained this name for having the accentuated sweet flavour).

Because it is very perishable, there are few places in Brazil where you can taste this delicacy. To complete the experience, visitors to the farm are also served cocoa cachaça.

Vila Rosa Chocolate is located at R. Pedro Longo, 174 – Centro, Itacaré – BA.

History of Chocolate

Chocolate is obtained from a mixture of cocoa, sugar and milk.

However, its manufacture begins much earlier, when the cocoa fruits are broken to remove their bitter seeds, the basis of chocolate.

The transformation of chocolate into the sweet we know will only happen later, after the cocoa beans have gone through various industrial processes, such as decomposing the raw material, adding milk, sugar and moulding it into the tablets sold in supermarkets.

Although the origin of cocoa is not known for certain, we know that it was already consumed in the 16th century by the Aztecs and Mayans before being brought to Europe.

The Aztecs also used cocoa beans as money and only nobles drank “tchocolalt”, a mixture of cocoa beans and honey, considered an aphrodisiac and sacred drink.

In 1502, when Christopher Columbus’ fleet arrived on the island of Guanaja, the Aztec natives gave a cup of the drink to the traveller, who was one of the first Europeans to taste chocolate. Later, in the 18th century, the Swedish botanist Charles Linnaeus named chocolate “Theobroma”, which in Greek means food of the gods.

Around 1700, the novelty arrived in France and England, gained the addition of milk and spread around the world.

And 65 years later, it conquered the industry with the beginning of its production in the United States. In Brazil, cocoa cultivation began in the 19th century in Ilhéus, Bahia.

It is home to the country’s largest cocoa producing region.

Highs and lows of cocoa production

1920 to 1930 – Peak

At the time, the city lived its great moment, when the cocoa colonels became rich through the export of the main raw material of chocolate: the fruit almond. There is no shortage of stories from that time, all flavoured by the local population’s

the local population’s imagination. Some locals say that, among the wealthiest colonels, there were those who travelled to Rio de Janeiro just to cut their hair, as a form of ostentation. Others would even spend six months a year in Paris, with a private chauffeur and everything.

1980 – Decadence

In the mid-1980s, Brazilian cocoa production was around 400,000 tonnes per year. At the end of the decade, in 1989, with the arrival of the witches’ broom, local revenues fell sharply, leading several families to bankruptcy. According to records, more than 300,000 people became unemployed in Ilhéus and the surrounding area.

Years 2010 – Recovery

Bahia recently rejoined the world cocoa market, from which it had been excluded for more than 20 years. The Executive Commission of the Cocoa Farming Plan (Ceplac), linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, ensures studies and surveys so that producers live with the pest and have high quality almonds produced.

Chocolate Manufacturing Process

Processo de fabricação do chocolate
Chocolate manufacturing process

1- COCOAA ALMOND

Chocolate making begins on the cocoa farms.

There the almonds or seeds of the fruit are removed. They are the main raw materials of the sweet.

Each cocoa bean contains 20 to 50 seeds, which are high in fat and water. Therefore, they need to be dried in the sun for eight days.

2- TOASTING

After drying, the almonds are taken to the factory and passed through the roasting machine.

There, a heating process takes place that eliminates all moisture and contributes to the development of colour, aroma and flavour.

3- TRITURING

The seeds are then cooled and sent to the crusher, which removes the shell from the kernels.

4- MILLING

Once dried, the kernels are taken to the factory and passed through the roasting machine.

There a heating process takes place that eliminates all moisture and contributes to the development of colour, aroma and flavour.

5- PRESSING

The mass then passes through the pressing machine, which separates the ingredient into two products: the first is the cocoa butter that will be reintroduced in the next step.

The second is the cocoa cake.

Part of it is dissolved and mixed with sugar to make chocolate powder. The other portion is cooled and broken into tablets, used in the manufacture of chocolate.

6- MIXING

Large mixers homogenise and transform the mixture into a paste.

In the production of dark chocolate, the tart and cocoa butter receive sugar and milk, forming the traditional chocolate mass. Semi-sweet chocolate, on the other hand, contains all the elements except milk. And white chocolate is made only with cocoa butter, sugar and milk.

7- REFINING

All chocolates go through the refining cylinders, where the sugar crystals in the mixture are crushed and broken into small particles. This is what makes the texture of the candy better and its consistency softer.

This process determines the quality of the chocolate.

8- CONCHAR

Devices keep the mass moving, removing acidity and moisture from the chocolate.

Then it goes to another instrument with the aim of making the sweet go through several temperature changes.

The cocoa butter is crystallised in it, leaving the paste in the ideal consistency to be moulded.

9- FINAL PRODUCT – Moulding

The chocolate paste is placed in moulds so that it acquires the desired appearance.

Chestnut, almond or rice flake fillings are added to the crunchy bars before filling the moulds.

The chocolates are then cooled until they are solid and ready for automatic packaging.

10- Different percentages of sugar

Chocolate contains on average half and half of chocolate and sugar. And a smaller percentage of cocoa butter.

White chocolate has a particular flavour, differing from dark in composition: it is made with cocoa butter, milk powder and vanilla essence.

The cocoa elaborated results in: cocoa butter, cocoa or chocolate powder and chocolate bar.

Each type of chocolate has different percentages of sugar:

Milk chocolate: 60%
White chocolate: 59.4%
Dark chocolate: 51.4%

Bahia.ws is the largest Tourism and Travel Guide in Bahia and the Northeast.

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