I felt like we traveled down a little rocky trail in rural Nicaragua because we heard this guy held the secret to happiness in his backyard and for a small fee he would show us this secret.
Here is where you can find this happy chocolate heaven.
This knowledge holder of happiness was named Donald & he shared the farm with his brother Rene. Together they worked in conjunction with twelve other small farms in the area to share supplies and ideas to help prosper as a whole and educate people about rural life. The hook for me was they grew cacao and would teach us to make chocolate from seed to succulent consumption.
The farm was set in rural Nicaragua not far from the city of Managua, with a technical rocky road leading up to the home. At the end was a purpose built home stay with about five large rustic rooms and the usual farm animal’s roaming free.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Rene who had been working away and went scrambling to get a shirt off the clothesline line before he came down the hill to introduce himself. Rene wins the prize for most appreciative person to have foreign visitors that I’ve ever seen, he was a warm Mother Theresa type and did all of his talking through a smile.
"Mice with wings."
He organised our room and draped the bed in mosquito netting while we organised our glasses and draped them in some nice relaxing red wine. Later Rene and his wife would show up with dinner straight from the farms back yard. After dinner and a few drinks Angie thought she’d brush her teeth and head for bed.
However she walked back out of the room faster then she had walked in with the type of look you get when there's a monster under your bed, I never dismiss this as an option when traveling rural developing countries. She quickly explained that monster was just over three inches in length with a two foot wing span, buzzing about our room getting the last of the mosquitoes was Dracula's cousin. I silently chuckled to myself while she gave a small monologue about the dangers, annoyances and high level of fear factor for “mice with wings”.
Being the ultra macho man that I am, I grabbed a broom, my motorcycle jacket and a camera to document the coming events and headed to the rescue. Turns out there were two bats hanging out in the room as the roof was not actually attached to the walls and they likely lived in that room more often then tourists. They left unharmed, we went to bed & oddly no one needed to get up and pee in the middle of the night.
We were invited to have breakfast in the families home and after were greeted by Donald and his super cute, very professional six year old daughter. The two of them would give us a farm tour and explain the various plants, fruits & procedures. The daughter would assist in holding up the cacao tree while her father climbed to get the chocolate based fruits, offer us chairs, help peel roasted cacao beans and aid with some much needed Spanish lessons. She knew how to operate this little chocolate farm.
Donald had some pre-sun dried cacao beans to save us a couple days of waiting and he built a fire in a rock in cement stove that we toasted those beans in. After the peeling they were soft enough to run by hand through a small grinder making an easy to mix base for our upcoming delight. During the grinding process it was noted to me that someone’s muscles were in fact bigger then someone else’s muscles, in the side by side photo I’ll let you be the judge.
While we were grinding the daughter had gotten a liter of farm fresh milk from the house that was now being simmered in our witches cauldron by Donald, to the potion he added a half pound of cane sugar and a half pound of our freshly ground cacao. I could feel either my excitement building or my reactive sugar addiction getting unbearable.
In a couple of minutes Donald had produced then poured us a round of the creamiest most amazing hot chocolate I’d ever inhaled in my life. We all took turns stirring the simmering pot of happiness until it reduced to our experts required thickness so he could then spread it across, no shit, a sliver platter!
He continued on with his slow simple Spanish explanation about Nicaragua, the farm collective and how much he liked my motorbike well enough that we could understand the information. Once cool, he divided the freshest chocolate in Nicaragua
into four, four ounce containers while the three of us kids used our fingers to help clean off the silver platter.
I often wondered if you could truly buy happiness, turns out you can just invest in a class on making happiness and with a few simple ingredients turn out a quality happiness product anywhere in the world.
The farm and chocolate school are formally referred to Albergue Rural Nicaragua Libre
. They have a small number of Trip Adviser reviews and if you google around the internet enough you’ll be able to find a bit out about them. The room was (USD) $8/person per night, dinner $7, breakfast $5, chocolate school with farm tour $10, the accommodations simple however you’ll leave with a more lasting impression then the one Best Western gives. Without personal transportation you could take a bus from Granada to the gravel entrance and walk about five minutes until you reach the property. You could easily show up (expecting to spend the night and tour the next day) or try to make advance reservations.