True to an unwritten and unspoken law of my own creation, I never buy chocolate outside of Switzerland. (Okay, I might make an exception in Belgium – or Paris). With three chocolateless months behind me, I was pretty excited to discover that there’s a chocolate factory just outside Ubud, Bali: An online article kick-started my curiosity- an equatorial chocolate factory, lodged in the largest all-bamboo commercial building in the world?? Let me in!
The reply to my exploratory email was prompt- and enticing, signed as it was by Ningsih, Chocolate Goddess, Marketing Support & Guest Relations, Big Tree Farms.
My excitement grew- Would there be an assembly line uncontrollably flinging luscious dark chocolates our way?
Well, like a dream come true, we didn’t have to wait a single minute for our first chocolate fix: The tour kicked off with a big glass of ice-cold chocolate each, and a samples cart, which I’m said to have monopolized
But luckily, Big Tree Farms Fairness Policy clarified that, and all guilty parties were promptly turned into chocolate elves
Our cravings slightly diminished, the beautiful venue finally got the attention it deserved. What’s not to like about an all-bamboo loft in a chocolate factory!
The tour itself offered a compact introduction to chocolate making – and a potpourri of engaging details: A sturdy Swiss cacao bean grinder from the 1930’s still going strong-
Light Bamboo walls and soaring ceilings that need daily spider-removal brushing (no pesticides permitted here!). The white wall is concrete-covered bamboo, very flexible, did well in 2011 earthquake
We look at Big Tree Farm’s diverse palette of unique products differently now too, having heard about the incredibly hard and time consuming work that goes into their making. Take, for example, the Hollow Pyramid Salt:
Sea salt has traditionally been produced by salt farmers on the volcanic black sand of Bali’s east coast for 900 years. In a slow, painstaking process, seawater is scooped up in wooden or leather buckets and splashed carefully and rhythmically across wide stretches of raked and pre-smoothed sand . Over the next few hours, the hot sun bakes the saltwater and sand into flakes from which the salt will be harvested. The thin, delicate flakes are gathered and washed with fresh water in a series of wooden drums arranged like a miniature canal system, to make pure saltwater brine. The brine is poured over planks that are spread across wooden frames for further evaporation under the sun. Fragile crystals are gently scooped from the surface of the brine to dry, exposed to wind and sun.
How and why the salt crystals form into large hollow, delicate 4-sided pyramids? If you ask the locals, they’re likely to shrug and say taksu– by the hand of God….
I got this email from Ningsih, Chocolate Goddess guide, two days after our visit:
I’m sorry for my late response. Really nice to see you too the other day. Thank you for trying not to jump- or dip your finger- into the chocolate during the tour. I hope you will be visiting us once our organic brownies are ready to be served in our café.