Adventures in Nicaragua: The Barber of La Colonia

Adventures in Nicaragua: The Barber of La Colonia

indi chocolate's latest cacao sourcing trip brought our founder, Erin, to the beautiful country of Nicaragua. In La Colonia, Nicaragua, Erin meets with Alexis, a cacao farmer who also became a barber to serve his community. 

I found myself in the second barber chair, but I wasn't there to get my hair cut. The base of the chair was constructed from a tire rim and had a bright yellow pole sticking up from it to hold the seat itself, which was constructed from the remnants of other chairs. This is one of the characteristics I love about working with farmers...ingenuity.  

barber chair

Alexis is the barber of La Colonia. While I was waiting, he had a lot of customers come through, including a gentleman who walked for two hours to get his hair cut. Business was booming.

Cacao farmers are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet and Alexis is no exception. Alexis realized that there were no local barbers and he wanted to have his own barbershop. He worked hard and saved money to buy a book on cutting hair, and eventually he had enough to build out the barbershop which attached to his house. His fifteen year old son, Sandy, helps out in the barber shop when he's not in school. Since Sandy was in school during my visit, I had to wait for Alexis to show me his cacao farm.

While I was waiting for Alexis, I talked with his wife, Alberta, and pulled out the jewelry making kit I had brought with me. She was also an entrepreneur and wanted to work with a local group of women to make jewelry from seeds she forages. These seeds look like polished wood, others like small grey shells from the sea, and some even are bright red while various others are black. My favorite seeds she had collected were bright orange with splashes of black. The tools in the kit would help the ladies string together these seeds to make bracelets and necklaces.

My guide on this adventure was Jonathan Butcher from Enliven Cacao, who has worked with cacao farmers like Alexis, for two years. Jonathan is a great listener and that is evident with how he works with this community. The jewelry kit was an example of how Enliven Cacao listens to and empowers the local communities for economic change. The community makes their own economic decisions and Enliven Cacao has provided training, expertise, structure, and support, with tools, micro loans, and good prices for their beans.  

Alexis finally freed himself from the primary barber chair and barber shop clients. We walked out his back door and into a maze of cacao, coffee, and oranges. The combination of flavors reminded me of the sipping chocolates and mochas we were making in the cafe before I left. An orange infused whipping cream is delightful and tasting his tangerines made me wish Alexis lived a bit closer to Pike Place Market.

His cacao was a mix of different types of pods, and the beans inside these pods ranged from a yellowish-white to rose to purple. Some of the pods we opened and ate had all three colors represented inside the same pod!

cacao pod

I was fortunate enough to try the beans from La Colonia before I arrived in Nicaragua and was able to bring the chocolate from these beans back to the source. It always puts a smile on my face to watch cacao farmers enjoying the chocolate made from all of our hard work. 

We can't wait to make chocolate with these delicious beans!