November 2011. After a 4 hour drive with our 4x4 and another 4 hours on horseback we arrived at the Kuna tribe. The effort was minor in comparison to what we experienced as chocolate-foodies, because for these Indians chocolate is sacred and the cocoa is part of their daily food. Our panama chocolate bar is made of the vulnerable Trinitario-bean grown at small cooperatives, it contains 80 % cocoa and is spicy with an earthy taste. Our Kuna adventure was a very important life lesson.
Try our origin bar from Panama, available in our webshop, and get a taste of our story.
Panama City is like New York in the sun. Skyscrapers and large boulevards along crammed beaches. Gathering some calories in the civilised world, so why not in the “Mira Flores”, the place to be-restaurant, chic, gastronomical, with a view on the Panama canal.
But we came for the Kuna Indians. Isn’t there a professor Hollenberg of Harvard, who – after studying them for a long time, came to the conclusion that the Kuna’s are immune to diabetes, cancer and heart failure, thanks to their cocoa consumption ? As a chocolatier you make a detour for far less !
De Kuna’s are politically totally independent, have their own language, are their own boss. Translation : no hotels and no western comfort. So we have some shopping to do in Panama City: water, tents, torches, canned food, aspirins, pills for diarrhea and other pleasures. And all that in solid jute bags because where the jungle starts we have to reload everything on horses (well, mules to be exact).
After three hours in our 4X4 the real macho-trip starts. Five hours in the saddle, in single file through the jungle, 43°C and 90% humidity. And then, finally the river, the Kuna’s, and such a warm, honest and artless welcome one gets emotional ( forget about their little flag that looks a bit peculiar)
Their miracle potion ? Jungle cocoa, dried, grounded into powder, sweetened with bananas and some cane sugar, some 40 cups a week (do not fear : we have a plan to graft these exceptional beans on other trees, so some patience…eat chocolate and become a centenarian )
No organised eco-tourism here. I have to endure 1000 mosquito bites and mistakenly take a Portuguese flagship, the world’s most poisonous jelly fish, for a plastic bag, but that is all part of the journey. You sure can use some luck around here !