As I promised in my previous blog posts about Punta Cana and Zip lining in Dominican Republic I am going to continue with describing the rest of our adventures in Dominican Republic in separate blog posts. After our zip line adventure organized by Runners Adventures, our dear guide Manny took us to the coffee and cacao farm.
This was exactly what we needed at that moment, a nice cup of coffee. The zip lining was actually not exhausting itself but you also have to walk from one platform to another and to climb the stairs to the platforms a lot.
The temperature was high, adrenaline as well, so what was the best for us at the moment? Coffee and hot chocolate of course, and a glass of a Dominican alcohol beverage known as Mama Juana, to calm down after the huge excitement.
But first we found out how each of those beverages are made before we tried them.
Manny explained all about the different kinds of plants we saw on our way to the farm. He was very knowledgeable, funny as heck, and endearing.
He made this excursion extremely memorable for us. He was amazing and the best tour guide we can ever imagine. I am sure that we wouldn’t have had the same experience without him.
For the first time I saw how the vanilla plant looks alike.
Vanilla is actually a climbing plant that climbs on the trees. It belongs to the family of orchid plants.
I loved the way they decorate the buildings around. They were painted to mix and become one with the natural environment. It was amazing work of art.
Actually each wall was an amazing piece of art. These were probably storage rooms.
Manny showed to us how and when they collect the cocoa and the coffee beans.
The cocoa trees grow best under the canopy of tropical rain forests, seldom reaching more than 7.5 metres (25 feet) high. The cocoa tree has broad, dark leaves about 25cm long, and pale-colored flowers from which bean pods grow. You can harvest the pods when they become orange or almost yellow.
Young trees are interspersed with new permanent or temporary shade trees such as coconut, plantains and bananas.
Cocoa trees begin to bear fruit when they are three to four years old. They produce pink and white flowers throughout the year, growing in abundance after the rain starts. However the pods grow straight out of the trunk and the main branches, which is most unusual. Only a small proportion of the flowers develop into fruit over a period of about five months. The trees are carefully pruned so that pods can be more easily harvested.
The harvesting of cocoa pods is very labor-intensive. The pods are split open by hand and the seeds or beans, which are covered with a sweet white pulp or mucilage, are removed ready to undergo the two-part curing process – fermentation and drying.
I tried one fresh bean. It was tasty and sweet, but Manny said that I have to be careful not to eat the raw been, so I only ate the white sweet thing around the bean in the way we eat candies, and after I spit the bean.
You can see on the photos above how the raw and dried beans look like. When fermentation is complete, they separate the beans using a traditional method. The beans dry in the sun on mats.
The dried beans are cracked and a stream of air separates the shell from the nib, the small pieces used to make chocolate.
The next step is roasting.
The roasted nibs are grounded in stone mills until the friction and heat of the milling reduces them to a thick chocolate-colored liquid, known as ‘mass.’ It contains 53-58% cocoa butter and solidifies on cooling. Our guide Manny demonstrated all the procedures to us, together with a one lovely lady.
This is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products.
Later on the cocoa mass is pressed into the balls. They add brown sugar and cinnamon into the maze.
Later on they dry these balls until they become hard like wood. You can keep these balls of cocoa for more than 30 years even they don’t contain any additives or preservatives and is grown pesticide-free. These balls are gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free; plus they’re full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lots of good stuff – and they’re absolutely delicious! You can make hot chocolate from them very easy. You just use the grater to grain the cocoa balls. From one tea spoon of this grained cocoa you are able to make four cups of chocolate. If you like you can add more sugar or cinnamon for flavor.
The similar procedure is used for coffee as well, with only difference that they don’t press the coffee into a mass.
They also taught us how the cocoa butter is made and the procedure of making coconut oil.
They showed us different kinds of coconuts.
After we learned so many things, and enjoyed the beautiful nature, they took us to the cafeteria. There they served to us coffee, chocolate and Mama Juana drink.
They also prepared some deserts for us with coconuts and chocolate, they were so delicious.
If you have never heard of Mama Juana, it is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. The taste is similar to port wine and the color is deep red. Mama Juana was created to be a herbal medicine that apart from acting as an aphrodisiac, it could also help you if you are suffering from flu, aid digestion or circulation problems, and cleanse the blood, liver and kidneys. Basically, it was an all-inclusive healer. The medicinal qualities of the drink derive from the bark and herbs that steep in the alcohol, creating a sort of natural tincture of herbal goodness that is thought to benefit the body in all sorts of ways.
The second name for Mama Juana is Dominican Viagra or Viagra Dominica how they call it. Manny said that this is an aphrodisiac drink with a kinky smile on his face. Our guide Manny was so great and funny he made us laugh all the time during our tour.
I suggest you to try or buy this drink, it is tasty but strong, do not overdo it with multiple shots. If you have any problems with your luggage weight, then you can buy only the bottle that contains herbs and tree barks, and make the drink yourself at home. There are plenty of videos on YouTube from where you can learn how to do it. Of course it depends of where you are traveling. US and Canadian customs do not permit the transport of Mama Juana if it is not in its liquid form. If you take dry Mama Juana ingredients home with you, be warned, Customs may confiscate it. Therefore we took the liquid bottled version.
At the farm you can buy different products for very reasonable prices. We bought one bottle of Mama Juana, one coconut butter, a jar of Dominican coffee and one jar with chocolate balls.
One is certain after you try the Dominican coffee, any other coffee will seem tasteless to you. I still have not finished my jar, I am drinking one every morning. I will try to order some for sure after my jar is done. I am a coffee lover, in general. After Dominican Republic we continued our vacation in Miami, Florida, there they usually drink and serve the kind of French filtered coffee. For me this coffee tasted like tea after I have already tried the tasty and strong Dominican coffee. It was a disaster at the beginning after I discovered one Cuban shop in the vicinity of our hotel. It was kind of a super market but they also had a small bakery inside. There I tried a Cuban coffee, and it was strong, similar to Dominican, but not so tasty, anyhow I was happy in the end because it was way better than the one they served in the other places.
The day tour also included a lunch with buffet-style food that was very delicious.
We almost tried a little bit of everything. I liked everything except from the papaya. It was catted into the square pieces and in the first sight I thought that this was a watermelon. I took one piece but I did not like the taste, it was something between sweet and salty and very buttery.
The rice and red beans is one of the traditional Dominican dishes. Their chicken is also very tasty. They had sauce with grounded beef and spaghetti, and a lot of different kinds of dishes and amazing salads. I liked the fried banana desert very much. I had tried once in the Asian restaurant, but the way they are making this desert here in Dominican Republic is different from the Asian.
The environment of the restaurant was very exotic. The waitress was wearing the Dominican traditional outfit long dresses, that contain the colors of their flag.
Besides of soft drinks and water they also served beer and wine. The restaurant it self was covered but open with no doors and windows like big tend.
Their toilets were very clean. Gardens around were amazing with all kind of different plants.
Chicken were strolling around the garden, we also found one chihuahua doggy to pet.
In front of the restaurant there was a selling exhibition of the art from the local artists.
After we enjoyed our amazing lunch, we were ready for the next stop of our day tour, the Monkey Land. I was so excited about it.
The food on the buffet was warm, fresh and delicious. We ate more than we usually do. I don’t know why, but this exotic environment and the whole excitement of the tour had opened our appetite a great deal.
I was thrilled because of the fact that very soon we were going to see and pet the little monkeys.
You can follow my stories with our adventures in Dominican Republic through my next blog posts. We did so many things there and we stayed only for 5 days.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post Punta Cana, we had planed different activities and adventures for every day of our stay. The day tours were usually finished around 16:00 or 17:00. Later on, we were enjoying the beach in the city because the sun was not burning hard in the afternoon.
Then after the beach we were taking a bath in our room, we were resting a bit and later we were going out for drinks and dinner in the city where you can find plenty of choices.
I really liked very much a Mexican bar called Wacamole Taco Bar. This place was right across the street from our hotel. They have live music performances sometimes. Their service is excellent and their food very tasty. There you can watch some amazing performances by the local artists. Decoration was mix of tropical, Mexican and classy. Great atmosphere. You should visit this place while in Punta Cana.
Try their tacos and burritos as well. This bar-restaurant is placed as top 2 restaurants in the area referred by TripAdvisor.
I really liked the design of this place. I think that this was enough for now. Even though I am trying so hard to write smaller articles, I have reached more than 1900 words again. I hope it was not boring and I hope that you enjoyed the article though. All photos in the article are captured by me, except the last two that I found on the web. Stay in touch and stay cool, see you on the next adventure. If you liked what you saw and you wish to book the same tour, please press the link with the word Viator, to see the price and the rest of the details.