Cacao

By Oren:

On the first day of our stay in Paso del Mango we went to a local cacao farm to have a tour. When we arrived we sat down for a few minutes while we waited for the guide and we were given a bit of chocolate . The tour was already off to a good start! It was a very dark but it was really nice. We had seen cacao growing last time we were in Colombia but we didn’t know how they turned it into chocolate so I was really looking forward to finding out how to do it.

We were greeted by a woman who started to show us around the plantation of cacao trees. She said that they were planted 15 years ago and that was when they started making chocolate on the farm.  Most of the cacao in Colombia is grown in the centre of the country where it is hot and there is lots of rain, especially around Santander. The people on the farm were able to grow it on the hot coast because, as the farm was on a mountain, there was enough rain to grow a successful crop.

As we were walking through the trees we noticed lots of pods in all different colours: red, orange, yellow, green and purple. Our guide said that inside these pods were the cacao beans that made chocolate, and the colour of the pod depended on how ripe it was and the type of tree. She said that there were 2 types of tree: original and mixed. There were two types of original trees; one with yellow pods for when it was ripe and green when it wasn’t. The other original tree had orange and red for ripe pods and purple for unripe ones. The mixed trees included both types, so they had all five colours on the tree, but they were cultivated differently and made more pods. These trees looked like a rainbow and it was amazing to see that the pods grew straight out of the tree trunk. I really don’t think there is any other crop that looks anything like cacao, and we were already fascinated.

Our guide chopped one of the pods off and cut it open with her machete. Inside we were extremely surprised to see white seeds instead of brown. She said that we could eat the seeds but only the coating around the outside. We all took a bit and the seed was so sweet. It tasted like a tropical fruit that had been grown only to eat on it’s own, not to make chocolate. It was so delicious that we had to have more until we’d eaten nearly half the pod’s seeds. Beneath the white coating there was a pale brown seed that looked a bit like an almond and that was the bit that was made into chocolate. When the seeds had been removed from the pod, they were put in a bag to ferment and then put out in the sun to dry. Finally, they were spread out on a platform to dry. The platform had a sliding roof over it so the people on the farm could shut the roof when it rained. It was really important that the seeds didn’t get wet at any point in the process.

At this point we moved inside the finca, where we were shown how the beans were cooked or fired until they started to look a bit more like chocolate. The next step was breaking off the skin around the bean. You were allowed to eat the inner part but it was very bitter. When all the skins had been thrown into the compost the remaining part of the seed was put into a mill or grinder where you had to turn a handle to make a kind of chocolate paste. This is when it turns from cacao to chocolate. Finally, you added sugar and they also added cinnamon which was a family secret, shhh 🤫 ! At this point, we were given some of the chocolate and we were told to make a shape out of it. I made an empanada, Brae made a smily face, Dad made a snowman and Mum made a seal. We were then allowed to eat them, which I was very happy about.

The whole process was so eye-opening and we were all completely amazed and felt that we had learnt a lot about chocolate production. We were struck by how much knowledge was needed to make chocolate and we never expected it to be grown in that way. It really was an amazing day, made even better by the incredible location of the finca, and the beautiful walk through the jungle to get there!

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more interesting, our guide put some of the paste aside and mixed it with hot water to create a smooth paste which which she put on our faces – a chocolate face mask! While we were letting the mask have its effect we had some delicious hot chocolate and got some homemade chocolate and orange brownie. I think you will realise by now that this was my kind of tour, and it was another day in Colombia that I will never forget!

Paso del Mango

By Brae:

Over the last three days we stayed in a place called Paso del Mango, near Minca. It means ‘the place of the mango’ or ‘mango way’. For a while we didn’t know why it was called Paso del Mango, but it soon became clear!  On our first day, we set off on a path beside the river to visit a nearby farm where they grow ‘cacao’ to make chocolate, and after about 5 minutes walking the floor became a carpet of mangoes!

You might remember that when we lived here before, as we walked to school we occasionally used to step over a mango or two that had fallen from a tree, but this was on a whole other level! I’ve never seen so many mangoes in my life, the smell was overwhelming and it was impossible to count them.

As we looked up at the enormous, beautiful trees laden with fruit, at first it
was really cool, but after a while I was just busy trying to find a bit of path where I could put my feet without squashing ten mangoes at once. Lots of things about Colombia have been unexpected, new experiences. For example, I never thought mangoes would be the cause of me arriving late for our tour of the chocolate farm.

Maybe you won’t be surprised that when we were in Paso de Mango we ate and drank a lot of mangoes: mango juice, mango salad, even pasta with chicken and mango. And the chickens in the chocolate farm ate mangoes from the floor for their snack.

Food memories

By Oren:

In case anyone was wondering if our experience in Colombia had been ruined so far by the rain, then you shouldn’t be worried. The day after the storm, the roads had dried up and the blazing sun was burning in the sky as usual!

Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to hear that when I am remembering places that we’ve been to, or things we have done, it always helps me to recall more vividly if I think of a food that we ate at that time! Over the last few days, I have been reliving some of my favourite Colombian food memories. On our second day, the sun was out and we set off for our favourite breakfast: arepas from our local street stall. As we took the first bite, we soon forgot about the pouring rain only a day before. The arepas reminded us of our daily walk to school and the route was very familiar. Bringing back those memories made Colombia feel even more like home.

As well as the arepas, we have also had some of our other favourite food and drink, like bocadillo, mango, limonada de coco and jugo de maracuyá. While I was eating these, I savoured every sweet bite of bocadillo and every sip of the unique taste of maracuyá. All of these brought back many happy memories of our last trip with them. Unfortunately our piña dorada isn’t ripe and we cannot eat it, yet. It’s taunting us from the fruit bowl! We are now fully enjoying our time in Colombia and having tons of fun and new experiences.

Arepas and patacones

By Brae:

A while ago, my Grampa asked me to tell him exactly what arepas and patacones were. At first, we thought all arepas were deep fried with different things inside because this is what we ate all the time on the coast. A few times a week we got arepas for breakfast from a place on the street near our house. We saw the lady shaping the dough into circles and then a man fried it until it puffed up, and then another lady made a hole in it and put the egg or meat inside.

But when we travelled around Colombia, we learnt that asking what arepas were like was a bit like asking what is bread like? I mean by this that you can get brown bread, white bread, bread in sticks or rolls or loaves, bread with olives in, or raisin bread or even chocolate bread! So bread can come in all different shapes and flavours and so can arepas. Each region of Colombia has its own speciality for arepas and we tried a lot of them when we travelled around. Our favourite kinds were fried with meat, filled with egg and sweet aniseed ones. We also liked cheese ones.

Even though we ate arepas all the time, we didn’t know how to make them until we went to live with Diana for a week and she showed us. This is a video to show my Grampa but we thought you’d all like to see it (you can also hear me speaking a bit of Spanish in the middle bit).

Patacones are pretty much always the same, but we still didn’t know how to make them, but we do now. They are pretty easy.

Coffee

By Brae:

One of the things that Colombia is most famous for is coffee. When we went to the coffee region, we went to a coffee farm to learn about coffee (there’s a lot of coffee in this post already!!). The man there even spoke English and so he said if we wanted we could have our tour in English and we did. Before the tour we had some drinks and we were looking at the amazing view. It looked so bright green because we had not seen anything green for months because there is no rain in Santa Marta.

coffee-2On the hill you can see small coffee plants growing and in between them there are some rows of tall plantain trees which the workers pick for extra money because coffee isn’t a very well paid job, and the plantain also gives the coffee plants shade to make them grow a lot taller.

coffee-2-2On our tour, we went into a forest of coffee trees and our guide showed us that first the tree makes a flower, and then the flower falls off and a small berry starts to grow. It’s green at first and then it gets bigger and finally turns yellow and then red. He said that you could only pick them when they are red and that even if they fall on the ground you still have to pick it up in case an insect comes and lays eggs. He also said that there were some trees that only ever got yellow ones and that when they were yellow they were still ripe.

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The coffee grows all year round and you have to pick it every time there are lots of ripe berries. That happens every few weeks and the day we went we saw some people who lived nearby who had come to pick the coffee for their job.

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Next he took us into a little house-like coffee factory. Upstairs there was a metal bowl with lots of coffee beens in and there were some floating but most were at the bottom. He said that even if they were red if they were floating they were not good so he threw them away. The ones that sink were washed and put out for sorting.

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The next part of the sorting happens in a giant metal tray with no water in but with tons of coffee beans. At first there was a man there sorting them out but then he left and our guide said we could have a go so we did. We took out beans that were unripe or damaged and we quite enjoyed it.

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After they had been sorted they were put in machine to peel their skin off. Inside the red case are two pale coffee beans. When you first peel the skin off there is a kind of slime on the coffee beans so they are left in water until the slime washes off. Then they put the beans in a warm room in little trays to dry.

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When it has dried it still has a very rough cream coloured case around the beans inside. They use another machine to get the case off and you finally see the coffee bean inside and we were surprised that it was kind of grey-green. Last of all they roast it and it turns brown like the coffee that we are used to seeing. It smelled really nice when it had just been roasted so we wanted to try it. We all had some coffee and me and Oren didn’t like it but my mum and dad did. So now we know the story of a coffee bean and you do too.

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Before I finish this post, we think we should probably say now that we’re not really ‘EverettsinColombia’ any more because we’ve been back in the UK for almost a week! But we’re still writing the blog because we haven’t finished telling you about all the amazing things we did in our last few weeks in Colombia. Please keep reading because our final post is going to be something special. If you really don’t want to miss it, sign up for updates by putting your email address into our blog!

More tropical fruits

By Oren:

The first post on the blog was about pineapples so it seems like a good thing to do to write about them on my last day in Colombia. Before we came here we didn’t know how pineapples grew so we wanted to find out how. When we went to a kind of animal and farm park called Panaca we were surprised to see pineapples growing on little bushes because we never knew they grew like that. We saw some workers picking them. Here are some pictures of them:

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On the same day in Panaca we saw some small trees with big green things that looked like aguacates at first, but a sign it said that it was maracuyá. maracuya2We didn’t know maracuyás grew like this either so it was good to find out.

One of the things that my mum says she is going to miss a lot about Colombia is just walking around and noticing all the tropical fruits growing around us. There are mango, lime, papaya and tamarind trees, cocoa and aguacates and bananas. They grow in the jungle but they also grow in people’s gardens and in fields, all along the road, growing in the pavement, in parks. In fact, tropical fruit is growing everywhere you look!

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Tamarind
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Cocoa
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Papaya
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Mangoes – we wish they were ripe!

Panela

By Oren:

In Colombia they use a different type of sugar to in England.

The first time we went to the supermarket we saw a big section in one of the panelaaisles of blocks of things called panela, but we didn’t know what what it was. We looked it up and found out it is a type of sugar and it is made out of sugar cane. Sugar cane looks a bit like green bamboo when it grows and then the stalks turn brown like sticks when they dry. panela-5To make the sugar cane into sugar, they just squeeze the sap out of the green canes and boil it until it gets thick and then it cools and sets into these blocks.
panela-2The sugar we have in England is made from sugar cane or sugar beet and it is made sort of the same way but after they get the juice they do a lot more things to it to make it really white and tiny.

When we went to the farm where Simón Bolívar died they had an old farm building where they used to make panela and we saw the machine that squeezed the liquid out of the cane. panela-6

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In Colombia, people make a lot of things with panela. They use panela in cooking instead of sugar. You can use a grater to get sugar from the big block. They also often make it into a drink called “agua de panela” (panela water) by mixing panela into water. They drink it hot (and serve it with cheese that you can put into the panela water!) or cold. IMG_8500They sometimes add lime into cold agua de panela which I think tastes a bit nicer, but I don’t really like agua de panela because I think it tastes a bit strange. They used to give us agua de panela at school and most children really like it.

 

Bocadillo

By Brae:

Today we were packing for the journey home and we have got more than five kilos of bocadillo! The bag is really, really heavy. So that shows how much we like it. I IMG_8514bet you are wondering what bocadillo is. In Spain bocadillo is a sandwich but in Colombia it is a sweet. Bocadillo is cube, light red and quite small. Here is a picture of bocadillo. It is a type of food that is made of a fruit called guayaba. They are green outside and sometimes round and sometimes the shape of a pear. Inside they are pink or red when they are ripe.guayaba
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Bocadillo is made with the inside of a guayaba and some sugar and is cooked slowly until it is thick enough to turn into a block when it cools down. Out of all the foods we have tried in Colombia this is the one that we think that a lot of our friends at school would like the most and maybe you can try it in the Colombian after school club that we are going to run in the summer term.

 

Maracuyá

By Oren:

The main reason I am writing this is because this morning we were discussing what things we are going to miss most when we go back to England and three out of four of us think that we are really going to miss a delicious fruit called maracuyá, and then we realised that we still haven’t told you about it yet. It is a bit like a passion fruit but it is bigger, yellow, much more tasty and very sour. When you buy it, it sometimes looks shiny, green or yellow and it is hard you can’t eat it then because it isn’t ripe. You have to wait until it looks all yucky and brown and wrinkly and that is when you can eat it. Here are a few photos of its stages:

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It is a very popular fruit in Colombia and you can get juices and ice creams made with maracuyá and you can also put one on your cereal, which my parents love! This is one of the main things that we are really, really going to miss when we go back to England because you can’t get it there .

Weird stuff update 4: Chocolate, cheese and cow hoof

By Brae:

In Bogotá we went up a mountain to a place called Monserrate with amazing views over the whole city.

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First I should tell you that Bogotá is already in the mountains. It’s in the Andes mountains and the city is 2,620 meters above sea level. That is nearly eight and a half London Shard skyscrapers on top of each other! Because it is so high, some people like Oren get altitude sickness just walking around. There isn’t as much oxygen in the air so high up and your heart beats faster. We’re lucky that no one else in the family gets it but Oren has had it which is a shame, but he still wanted to go up to the top of Monserrate which is 3, 152m. At the top we went to a cafe and had hot chocolate and cheese.You might think it was a bit weird but it is a thing that Colombians like so we wanted to try it. We broke up the cheese and put it in the hot chocolate and left it to get soft then we ate the chocolatey cheese with a spoon. It was a bit strange but we liked it. My dad did not really like it because he does not like sweet and savoury combinations.

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During our week in Bogotá we also went into a really nice town called Villa de Leyva and we saw a man who had some strange sticky white stuff and he was turning it round on a stick. choccheesehoofOur friend Luis Fernando told us it was made from sugar cane (panela) and cow hoof! At first we didn’t really like the sound of it but then our dad told us that lots of sweets in England are made with gelatine that comes from the skin and bones of pigs and cows (like jelly babies, haribo and marshmallows)! We decided to try some and at first we liked it but the more we had it the less we liked it.

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