Dancing Bones is having a cacao-tasting party during the week of April 4th through 8!
Drop by, taste, and vote if you want us to carry Jeanmarie roasted cacao from Aguada, Puerto Rico! To find out more, drop in or call us at (505)557-6509.
New Mexico’s culture has many of the things I love about Puerto Rico. But my son, and half of my heart, are still in Puerto Rico. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I asked Nicole if we could share some of the Puerto Rican products I have used and loved.
Never Bean Better
First up, me gusta presentarles Juan Echevarria y su esposa, Maria Mendez of Hacienda Jeanmarie Roasted Cacao Beans. They carry both roasted and raw cacao, as well as cacao powder. I haven’t tried the raw beans yet, but I love the slow-roasted cacao, and Nicole starts her morning with at least five unshelled beans.
I met Juan at the Rincón Farmer’s Market in Puerto Rico. I tried the cacao beans and liked how easy it was to meet my daily chocolate requirement. I had been reading about chocolate’s health benefits (not the Snickers bars that I occasionally crave, but real chocolate). But I didn’t begin eating the beans regularly until I ended up in the hospital with an infected leg, due to the usual stupid accident.
By the time I left the hospital, and was going to “wound care” twice a week, my blood pressure was abnormally high. I decided to try cacao since my blood pressure would be regularly monitored. After two weeks, the nurse asked, “Are you taking medication to reduce your blood pressure?” I confessed to the cacao and was immediately asked to bring samples, to see if it would help their families with similar problems. This is not a recommendation to quit your blood pressure medication, but I can’t imagine adding a little cacao would hurt. But ask your doctor. Or, better yet, give him some beans.
I am including Juan and Maria’s story of how they got into the chocolate business. It’s a fun and inspiring tale of determination, and creativity-things abundant in Puerto Rico-La Isla del Encanto, “The Island of Enchantment.” And of course, here in Nuevo México, “The Land Of Enchantment.” Isn’t that a sweet, symmetrical synchro-destiny?
I tried the cacao beans and liked how easy it was to meet my daily chocolate requirement. I had been reading about the health benefits of chocolate (not the Snickers bars that I still sometimes crave, but real chocolate). But I didn’t begin eating the beans regularly until I ended up in the hospital with an infected leg, due to the usual stupid accident.
By the time I left the hospital, and was going to “wound care” twice a week, my blood pressure was abnormally high. I decided to give the cacao a try since my blood pressure would be regularly monitored. After two weeks, the nurse asked if I was taking medication to reduce my blood pressure. I confessed to the cacao and had immediate requests to bring samples, to see if it would help members of their families with similar problems. This is not a recommendation to quit your blood pressure medication, but I can’t imagine adding a little cacao would hurt. But of course, ask your doctor. Or, better yet, give him some beans.
I am including Juan and Maria’s story of how they got into the chocolate business. It’s a fun and inspiring tale of hard work and creativity-things that are abundant in Puerto Rico, La Isla del Encanto, “The Island of Enchantment.” And of course, here in Nuevo México, “The Land Of Enchantment.” Isn’t that a sweet, symmetrical synchro-destiny?
Juan and Maria’s Story
“We are Juan Echevarria and Maria Mendez. We met in the 1970s as high school students. Over time, the relationship grew, we got married, and we finished our university degrees. Maria’s in education, specializing in physics and biology, and Juan in administration, accounting, and marketing. Maria became a teacher when we finished university, and Juan entered the manufacturing industry. Our family grew and we had three daughters. Years passed and life progressed. We continued growing as a family and in our professional life, with the ups and downs that every family faces. Radical change came into our lives in 2008 when Maria had to retire from teaching due to a health condition. Juan, who had a private business, felt obligated to close it since it was not performing as expected.
Confronted by the new reality and an unplanned change in our lives we worked hard to adapt. The first thing was to face Maria’s health situation, which we were able to resolve positively. Then we turned our attention to our economic situation, because there was no longer a stable income in our home. It was then that we embarked on a new life project and became farmers.
At first, we did not know what our best farming options were, but little by little we explored possibilities. In our search for the best crop to grow on our farm, we applied two fundamental principles for our agricultural project. We needed a crop that adapted to the Puerto Rican climate and that had export potential. We identified cacao as the crop that met both requirements. But what kind of cacao should we produce? We studied the international cacao market and found that there is a classification for a specialty cacao known as Fine and Flavor Cacao. Since Puerto Rico is a small island, with limited farmland, we understood that there was a great opportunity if we produced a specialty cacao.
Puerto Rico farmers cultivated cacao centuries ago. Their trees remain in forests and abandoned farms around the island. We rescued some and started growing them as an experiment. That is how we met Dr. Brian Irish, the director of the USDA ARS TARS Cacao Clones Conservation Center in Mayaguez, just half an hour from our farm. We met with Dr. Irish and presented him with the idea of producing a special cacao. Dr. Irish became interested and helped Juan learn everything about cacao cultivation, propagation, and maintenance. With his help, we selected varieties of high quality and yield and planted them on our farm, which we call Hacienda Jeanmarie” (A French version of Juan and Maria).
I, of course, Googled my favorite doctor for more health information and this is what Dr. Google wrote:
“Cacao is packed with flavonoids. These nutrients have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and aid in preventing blood clots.”
“Let us begin by noting the wondrous benefits of cacao (in the correct forms) can bring to your body: they are full of vitamins and minerals like potassium and B vitamins, as well as superpowers that combat heart disease and cancer. Plus, it makes us happy, chemically. With these health benefits in mind, then, how about we explore a myriad of different and delicious ways to enjoy cacao, from the shell to the butter to the bean?” -from a post on One Green Planet.
Cacao Protein Shake Recipes
Nicole and I have experimented and so far these are our favorites. Ask for a sample and see what you think. All it will cost you is a yay or nay vote on whether you’d like us to add this product to our offerings. You can use any kind of milk. I just happened to have coconut in the refrigerator.
Two versions of a good-tasting, high-protein meal replacement shake using Jeanmarie Roasted Cacao:
2 cups of coconut milk
½ cup of chocolate protein powder
½ teaspoon vanilla
10 unshelled cacao beans
Use a blender to mix, pour into a jar, and refrigerate. I’m sure you could add ice cubes, but that would dilute the mix-so why?
Or you could add a banana for taste and thickness.
Or this one
2 cups of coconut milk
½ cup of chocolate protein powder
1 teaspoon of rose water
10 unshelled cacao beans
Blend and refrigerate.
You can customize this recipe with any flavor or fruit.
How to Use Cacao Nibs
10 different ways to use cacao nibs (From Indi Chocolate)
- Add cacao nibs to your cheese and crackers.
- Add cacao nibs to your salad.
- Add your favorite spirit to the indi chocolate infusion kit.
- Eat cacao nibs like a nut, by the handful.
- Add cacao nibs to your granola and yogurt.
- Add cacao nibs to banana pancakes.
- Add cacao nibs to smoothies.
What To Do With a Roasted Cacao Bean
Eat them whole and learn to like the shell – it’s fiber!
Shell them and get your own “nibs.”
Can I buy a Cacao Pod?
Juan of Jeanmarie Chocolat will be happy to fill your order. Here is his website for direct ordering: https://jeanmariechocolat.com
And here is a YouTube on how to eat the pod – if you are ever lucky enough to get one.
X Rhea and Nicole