March 26, 2018
We awoke early once again, since we had paid for a day at a local finca (farm). We walked to Cafe Via Via to meet our guide. Carlos, whose family owned the finca, picked us up along with another American, Jacinda, who we had met at the Hacienda San Lucas the night before, strangely enough. We all realized we had seen Carlos and Jacinda at the German restaurant (Sol de Copan) when we first arrived, which was so amazing. We rode in his truck for about an hour to get to his family farm. We drove on a dirt road over the mountain and it was apparent that they had had more rain than in the valley of Copan. Most people would call it an agritourismo and the name of the farm was Finca el Cisne (farm of the swan). He showed us around the farm a little and talked about the cacao (chocolate beans) that they were growing. We tasted several plants and several beans, mostly smelling of chocolate. He opened up a pod of Cacao. There were many beans in the pod and they had a very sweet coating of some sort of “goo”, so we put the bean in our mouths and sucked on them. We did this several times to taste the various different kinds of cacao. We also tasted chipolin (sp?) and chicosuporte (sp?).
I had not realized that we would be talking about chocolate on this farm, so that was a complete surprise. We did, however, talk about coffee, which was not a surprise We then walked over to the coffee bean processing area, where Carlos explained the various processes. I learned that the higher the elevation, the more acidic the coffee. I had once heard that elevation affected the amount of caffeine, but found out that was not true. We also found out that this particular finca had an educational program on nutrition for the locals and that the family employed about 30 full time employees. During the harvest season, they employed more. I believe I remember him saying that they would have two different harvest seasons. Beans were hand picked every few days, so that only the ripe beans would be harvested each time. We found that only 20% of the coffee fruit is actually a coffee bean. The ripe fruit was a pinkish-reddish color and the unripe was green.
In the processing area, we noticed the cacao in various stages of drying. We also saw a box of just picked cacao that was being fermented in this “goo”. It was in a small box with a cover of banana leaves and then a lid that actually pressed down on the cacao. They would mix them up every so often so that they would ferment equally. I believe I remember him saying this would take 3 days, but I could be completely wrong about this. We saw 3 piles of cacao beans, each a little darker. They were not really piles, but were spread out like the coffee beans, but on a piece of plastic type cloth, like a bag, in the shaded of a building.
We also noticed two different colored coffee beans. They were laid out in the middle of a concrete area in the sun and I saw a rake and then something that looked like a very wide hoe that they used to mix the beans so they would dry completely. These beans were very blond colored. The other beans drying on the side were darker and had lots of chaff with them. He explained that these were the rejected beans that would be sold in grocery stores (probably in the states was my assumption) to people that did not understand the difference in good and bad coffees and, of course, would be much cheaper. He showed us the washing areas and told us that the lesser quality beans would float. He also showed us another drying area in the event there was no sun, which included a huge fan and a giant heater. Then it was time to go on a horseback ride. He selected horses based on riding ability. Cindy has only ridden once or twice in her life, so they picked an 18 year old gelding for her. The rest of us had varying abilities. Most of the horses were purebred Peruvian and were gated horses, so they were very smooth and comfortable to ride. THe saddles were western with a horn. I believe my horse may have been the smoothest of all, but when he cantered, he was extremely rough and it was obvious that this was not his favorite gate. We rode for two hours and saw a good deal of the farm. We saw cardamon plants and tasted them. We also found out the farm raised cattle and horses, as well as various other crops. We saw a newborn filly (born that day) and a colt that was born the week before and we saw other young horses, yearlings maybe. There were also several paint horses in the herd.
Everyone enjoyed the ride and we got back to the main part of the farm (the house/office/kitchen) and had a most wonderful lunch. We ate yucca and something called guajada that I believe I remember being a pickled radish and red onion. We had rice with carrots with some sort of flowering plant that I can’t remember the name of (a yellow flower). We had a wonderful cheese that they made on the finca, zucchini, a beef dish with some sort of gravy and some tamarind juice that was wonderful. We also had a jalapeño dish that I did not try and something with some cilantro in it. Actually, all of it was wonderful and all came from the finca. After lunch, he drove us to a hot springs that was only minutes away and still on the dirt road. I had not looked forward to this as I thought it was going to be out in the open and hot. It was actually next to the Copan River and in a forest. There were areas that were in the sun, but most of it was shaded in the trees. We got into our suits in a co-ed hut that had 4 different dressing rooms. They were open from neck up and if someone wanted to, they could certainly look over the door. No one did, or they would have received a horrific surprise in my case.
In any event we followed Carlos, who showed us the various areas of the hot springs. In the beginning, it was exactly as I had imagined with swimming pools, picnic and camping areas in the bright, hot sunshine. It looked like you could rent a camping area with a tent set up under a roofed area. It was very strange. We walked across an awful swinging bridge to get to the rest of the hot springs. I had trouble keeping my balance and was not happy about the height of the bridge. Once across, though, we found that there were many pools that were built out of rocks in the woods sort on a slight hill. The pools had something like flagstone on the bottom and the various pools would dump into each other. Some were cold, some were hot and some were warm, so you had your choice. So, it was actually much, much nicer than I had imagined. We did want to get back to Copan early so that we could go to the tea and chocolate house that we had heard so much about, known as T & C (oddly enough) so we asked Carlos to pick us up at 4:45PM. I could have happily stayed longer, but the tea and chocolate place that we had heard so much about, closed at 6:00PM. Tony and Laurie went off on their own and Cindy, Jacinda and I hung out together. We stayed away from the pool that had 90 degrees Celsius water, since we would be burned and decided to try out the cold and hot pools. We then decided it was time to get dried off and head back, so we recrossed the little bridge and changed back into our jeans. Then Carlos drove us back to Copan.
We all, including Carlos and his friend, went to the tea and coffee house and ordered various drinks, including the chocolate drink, which Carlos recommended. It was served in a gourd, which was nice, and we sat on the open porch to watch the sunset. They also brought us samples of tea that aclually tasted a lot like chai. They told us later that it had allspice in it. It was packed with gringos. Carlos then drove us into the city center where we asked about the best place for pupusas. We got them to go and while we waited, we did a little shopping. We then went back to the hotel, fixed ourselves some cocktails and ate our pupusas. Tony, Laurie and Cindy played a little Canasta and I went to my room to take a shower and pack. We would be up early in the morning to catch our bus back to El Progreso.