Have you ever seen a cocoa tree? Or even a cocoa pod? Or followed the pod all the way to when it becomes a chocolate bar? Neither had I.
Chocolate is said to be the food of the gods and I can understand why.
So a few weeks ago we took a drive a couple of hours north to beautiful Mission Beach and particularly to Charley’s Chocolate Factory. A tour of the cocoa farm and and chance to taste awarding winning chocolate was just to good to pass up.

This is a beautiful part of north Queensland and the farm is set in a shallow valley not far from the ocean which make it a perfect micro climate to successfully grow cocoa trees.

Cocoa trees only grow in a very limited area within 20° either side of the Equator. 
In our part of the world we are subject to severe tropical cyclones which in recent years have decimated local crops. The clever people at Charley’s Chocolate farm have implemented a trellis system, training the trees to grow espaliered to the strong wires. It is hoped that this will save the trees during a violent cyclone. It appears this is having the added benefit of a very long, if not year round, harvest.

When we visited in October the trees had tiny flowers…

…as well as large pods of a variety of colours.
Great clumps of green pods.
And huge yellow….
… and purple pods ready to pick
The pods have a thick skin which encases the beans.

At Charley’s Chocolate Factory the washed beans are laid out in the hot sun to dry. 
Wonderful but imagine the panic as the afternoon storms roll in!

The tour is very informative and interesting but unlike other chocolate factories it doesn’t include a factory tour to see the chocolate being made.
But there is heaps of delicious tastings!
The ginger chocolate was my particular favorite!

And of course, at the end there is lots of chocolate to buy.

Charley’s Chocolate Factory is still in it’s infancy but to their credit they have won the 2016 Champion Chocolate Bar and Block at the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards.

If you find yourself in this part of the world, do book a tour and see for yourself.  Alternatively this wonderful chocolate is available online so do yourself a favour and order some today.
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