Öribë Chocolate Farm, Panamá

Our visit started out a little rocky, as we tried to sort out a ride from Almirante port to the farm, located in the jungly hills near by. But after we befriended some locals, and they made a few phone calls, we managed to catch a free ride on a crowded mini bus. About half an hour later, the bus doors flew open and we were greeted by our smiling guide ‘Jack’ at the entrance. He pushed some walking sticks into our hands, and we quickly realized we’d need them as we trekked up the steep hillside.

Öribë Co-op operates from a 600 person Ngöbe native village where 30 families tend the 100% organic cocoa production. Jack tells us (his real name is Leni) that only those who truly love cocoa can be successful in cultivating it, since the process is intricate and requires much subtle pruning and tending. In order to give cocoa’s pests something else to munch on (and rather than using pesticides), the farmers populate the hills with many other plants from banana and lemon trees to pita (used for traditional fibre-crafts) and various medicinal plants—not to mention the wildlife that abounds: toucans, sloths, tiny poison dart frogs. A fruitful symbiosis.

We spent an amazing afternoon at the Öribë co-op learning as much as eating. The chocolate was rich and so incredibly pure, in all its forms: you could suck on the fruit enveloped in sweet, white meat or crunch roasted cocoa beans and finally indulge in the the creamy chocolate paste with a dash of cane sugar added. The lunch we were served was not far behind. The standout ingredient was a local variant of rhubarb with a root that tastes like potato and leaves that are incredibly flavourful and sweet when stewed.

It’s possible to book this eco tour ahead through a local provider ($30 for 2 hours with lunch), or you could make your own way there, and have all the proceeds go directly to the community.

Oribe chocolate farm

Nestled in the jungle

Oribe chocolate farm guide

Our ever smiling guide, “Jack”

The village school at Oribe chocolate farm

A celebration at the village school

Oribe chocolate farm, girl


Cocoa pod

All hail the mighty cocoa plant

The tasty cocoa fruit hides the beans inside

The tasty cocoa fruit hides the beans inside

Cocoa production, fermentation

The key step (that is skipped my many large-scale cocoa producers) is fermentation, under banana leaves, to bring out a rich flavour and preserve full nutritional value

Oribe chocolate farm, drying beans

The beans are dried in simple huts and need to be turned every 30 minutes

Oribe chocolate farm, drying beans

Öribë’s operation is small but successful, exporting batches of beans to Swiss chocolatiers like Lindt

Ngobe native woman tends to the roasting cocoa beans

Ngöbe native woman tends to the roasting beans

Ngobe native woman tends to the roasting cocoa beans

Much of the chocolate production here is still done by hand

Traditional bean grinding process

Traditional bean grinding process

Chocolate paste sweetened with just a dash of cane sugar. Words escape me.

Chocolate paste sweetened with just a dash of cane sugar. Words escape me.

Lunch at Oribe chocolate farm

A girl on a chocolate farm is a happy girl

Oribe farm dog

Adorable resident fleabag

Red poison dart frog, panama

Poison dart frog the size of my thumb nail

Green poison dart frog

Is this guy for real?

The cultivating process artfully illustrated

The cultivating process artfully illustrated

Lunch at Oribe chocolate farm

Julie about to dig in to lunch

Oribe chocolate farm

Farm life

Oribe chocolate farm

Scaring away the chickens

Oribe chocolate farm

Chocolate is a family business

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UnaÖribë Chocolate Farm, Panamá


  1. gbc

    Upon returning from vacation last week, among the mountains of mail (containing mostly bills) I spotted your package – Panamanian hot chocolate mix!

    Thanks sooo much! We’ll save it for a cold winters day when we return from building snowmen in the park. Now we have a story about how it is made too.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  2. Author

    UrbanSquares: I’m glad to hear that!

    GBC: Welcome back. Here’s hoping that hot chocolate will be a slice of summer during our cold Canadian winters. Enjoy!

    Mary Beth: Gracias! Have you had some before? It’s amazing.

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