It’s true – the world is a better place because of chocolate! Especially when it’s in Bali, and is a sustainable product, which boosts all the positive traits of the economy. That’s why I hopped on my scooter, the minute I learned about the Big Tree Farms factory in Bali, to see the process of creating chocolate, and visit the largest bamboo building in the world.

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Everyone knows that dark chocolate encourages our bodies to produce the so-called happiness hormones. Who wouldn’t want to buy a neatly packaged piece of happiness? It sounds amazing! And quite often it turns out to be too good to be true because most of the big chocolate companies stuff their packages not with cocoa joy, but rather with sugar, preservatives, and heaps of artificial additives, that make us unhappily obese. That is exactly why I was so impressed with the mission behind Big Tree Farms, who actually do create chocolate for a better world.

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The factory that produces these sweet delights is housed in the largest structure in the world, made entirely out of bamboo, and is located between Ubud and Denpasar. Bamboo is a sustainable building material because, after it’s cut, it grows back in just a few years. Besides, it’s extremely flexible and bends, instead of breaking, during earthquakes, which makes it ideal for Indonesia. I suppose that is why many of the houses there use bamboo, rather than iron and concrete, for their foundations.

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As we sampled the chocolate (the one with sea salt is amazing!) and the other Big Tree Farms products, we witnessed the process of packaging happiness.
Fresh cacao pods are delivered to the factory. They are then dried and roasted, just like coffee. We sucked on some raw seeds, which are silky smooth, even a bit slimy, and leave an airy, slightly bitter taste on your tongue.

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Fresh cacao pods

You can find roasted cacao in most organic and nut shops. Even though they have plenty of health benefits and I, personally, find them delicious, the strong, bitter taste drove some of the other visitors to vigorous spitting.

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Roasted cacao and cacao nibs in the background

During the next step, the roasted cacao is broken into cacao nibs, which are then stirred into a thick paste, and finally – the cocoa oil is separated from the cocoa powder.

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The process of creating chocolate

To get chocolate, the workers in the factory mix the cocoa powder with coconut sugar and coconut oil. Coconut products, unlike most other types of oil and sugar, are easily digested, which makes them healthy. Besides, coconut sugar, which is made from the flowers of the coconut palm, is a sustainable product. A single palm tree can produce up to 200 flowers a year and requires very little water, compared to sugarcane and sugar beet plants.

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Coconut blossom are kind of ugly (on the right) but many delicious types of sugar are derived from them (on the left)

The last step of the process is called tempering and constitutes of stirring, melting, and thickening the mixture several times. The goal is to create a final product that melts on your tongue and has a glossy finish. Every chocolate factory has its own secret tempering procedure, which is viciously guarded.

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What makes Big Tree Farms special is not just their use of sustainable, organic products, but also the treatment of those who create the sweet blocks of happiness. The factory encourages local economy by hiring workers who live in the area, pays them fair wages, and doesn’t abuse them with endless work, as do many other large companies, who move to Indonesia for the cheap labor and lawlessness.

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Cocoa plant

As if everything else wasn’t enough, we got a tour of the factory by one of the most friendly and attentive girls that we met during our entire stay in Indonesia. For a country whose citizens constantly wave hello and invite you home, this says a lot.

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Products by companies like Big Tree Farms are often deemed unpopular, because of the higher cost. On the other hand, it might be worth considering how the money we save with products manufactured by many of the large, popular companies, comes back to bite us, in respect of our health and the environment.