Tours weren't part of the original plan, but after seeing other farms' success with agritourism, the couple began offering visits by appointment for $10 a person from Wednesday through Friday at 9:30 A.M. Pam started us out with a taste of the finished chocolate. I'm a dark-chocolate fan, and the Coopers' has a less bitter, sweeter, more fruity taste than most. Next Bob walked us out to the backyard, where our chocolate began. Three wild turkeys gobble and strut around mounds of cacao beans drying in the sun. "There's a peacock somewhere around here too," Bob casually mentions.
Ducking under the canopy of the Coopers' 1,350 cacao trees reveals a quiet carnival of colors. Ridged, oval-shaped red, yellow and green cacao pods hang down from the branches and range in length from the tip of my pinky to some nine inches long and six inches wide.
Bob used a cleaver to open each cacao pod and extract its 30 to 40 beans. As he sliced, lime-green geckos scurried across the wooden table to feast on the detritus. The beans will ferment for a week before drying in the sun. The Coopers will age the beans for two years to allow the flavor to fully develop before the chocolate-making process begins.