1. I roasted a random sample of cocoa beans with the farmers from an upcoming shipment over a wood stove in a farmer's kitchen. This helps gauge the true flavor of the bean.
    These farmers collectively decided they would donate 10% of their profit share to relief efforts for victims of the super typhoon that devastated the areas surrounding Davao.

  2. I always roast cocoa beans with farmers in their kitchens. This trip was no exception.


  3. Dina works at Askinosie Chocolate. These are pictures from her trip home to Davao- where she was born and her family still lives.


    Meeting with Malagos Elementary School regarding the Tableya project.


    The Malagos PTA roaster they use to make the Tableya.


    Dina and Chairman of the cocoa bean cooperative.


  4. I met with the group of farmers to inspect half of our shipment which will be ready in November. The beans were amazingly consistent and I had zero rejections or notes. I was really pleased!
    Two farmers and leaders of the coop pictured at their central fermentary and solar drying pads. Those are our beans in the background.
    Talking to Peter about the fermentation process for our beans.
    One of the things I always always check is the moisture content of our beans and this meter proves that they are right on the money!
    I inspected the beans we are buying for this coming crop. This picture shows our beans in the second stage of fermentation with some farmers in our partner coop.

  5. Davao Trip Journal

    Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012, 1:33PM: I am on my way to Davao to meet with our farmer group, inspect our next shipment of cocoa beans, meet with parents and teachers at Malagos Elementary School, and get my first look the lunch program we started. Waiting in Dallas at the airport for the next leg of my journey is proving to be my record breaking layover.  I arrived here around 8:15am and my Korea flight is delayed to depart at 6PM tonight.  Reason: Typhoon Bolaven over Korea.  This delay will have a ripple effect for the rest of the trip.  This means that I’ll be spending tomorrow night (that’s right – Wednesday night) in the Seoul airport until my Manila flight at 8AM on Thursday. I’m tired just typing this and it has barely begun.

    Thursday, Aug 30 – 6:30am: Finally! Upon opening the automatic sliding doors to arriving passengers, the Manila heat and humidity slaps me down.  I decide to walk to the domestic terminal.  Have not been outside since Tuesday so it is a nice sweaty walk. No – I don’t stick out – not at all.  Another 6 hours and we’ll depart for my final destination: Davao.

    Thursday, August 30: At long last I am on a plane bound for Davao. My 4th and final leg – it seems like I have been trying to get here all week. I knew I was getting closer to my destination by the “foreign-ness” of the in flight snacks. Happy Nuts!


    When I arrive at the Davao City airport there is nobody here to pick me up. I am only 9 hours late. This might be my longest journey yet; over 40 hours to get here.  This is my 16th origin trip since we founded our chocolate factory in 2005.  That feels like a lot of miles to me.

    Met with Peter and Gilda at my hotel here in Davao. We set the schedule for the coming days work.

    7:00pm – I can no longer keep my eyes open and need to get some sleep. I am supposed to Skype with Boyd Elementary in three hours but I cant make it. I am not sure when I have been this tired.

    Friday, August 31, 8:00am: I meet with two representatives of the Peace and Equity Foundation for breakfast. This Foundation, based in the Philippines, will be making a loan to the cooperative we buy cocoa beans from here in Davao. They want to meet with me because the cooperative’s contract with Askinosie Chocolate is the security for the loan. They were very kind and will be very helpful for the farmers we work with. This kind of micro-financing is what makes our work with the farmers possible.

    10:00am: We arrive at Malagos Elementary School to much fanfare. In fact, the pomp and circumstance is a little over the top because the reception is for me. It makes me uncomfortable. The students have prepared dances to welcome me.


    The reason for all of this is that our lunch program started in June when classes started which means every single student, there are over 700, are now getting a nutritious lunch.



    It was my first chance to see the lunch program in action and for them to express their thanks. It was my turn to speak — I thanked them for their overwhelming reception and told the students and teachers that the lunch program was only possible because the PTA parents made the Tableya (a traditional hot chocolate drink),


    sold it to us, we then sold it tour customers. That profit is what funded the entire program without any donations whatsoever. I explained that they were the ones deserving the thanks – not me. When the assembly was over we gave all 700 students a taste of our chocolate. Davao 77% of course!


    12:30pm: The teachers prepared lunch for us using the fortified soy rice meal that the kids eat everyday.


    I was able to see the makeshift kitchen where the parents volunteer to make lunch every single day for the students.


    I met with teachers to talk to them about the success of the lunch program. They told me stories of increased attendance, increased overall health of many of their students. Then we saw the data: 90% of all of the students have gained weight since the program’s inception in June.

    1:30pm: I meet with the PTA volunteers


    and explain that we will need to move to the next phase of the lunch program and start using locally sourced food. In the beginning we used a fortified soy rice meal obtained from our partner Convoy of Hope (a disaster relief NGO based in Springfield, Missouri). However, in order to achieve full sustainability we need to use local food. That will cost more money, I explain to the PTA. I said that we will need to purchase and sell almost 2 times the amount of Tableya units as last year. The parents are excited about the next phase. We travel to the place where the parents and teachers are making Tableya. They show me the roaster and place where all of the packaging takes place.


    For dinner I enjoyed a traditional Filipino meal of


     kinilaw (raw fish with spices and vinagar) and pork adobo (from the cheek – waste nothing)


    3:00pm: I meet with the members of the farmer cooperative we work with to source our cocoa beans. They showed me their new fermentation boxes 



    and drying beds.


    It was especially great because I was able to see and inspect our beans while they were fermenting and drying.




    They appear to be outstanding. The flavor of the dried cocoa beans is everything I hoped they would be. The farmers prepare a cool drink of fresh coconut water  


    for us all to enjoy.

    Saturday, September 1, 9:00am: I meet with our farmers again to inspect the beans in greater detail. The moisture content is perfect. The cut test reveals fermentation exactly the way we asked for in our contract. I could not have asked for better beans.

    There is not a meeting without Tableya. The temperature is over 90 but for some reason the heat plus the heat of the drink work well together.


    11:00am: We take a short drive to another farmer’s home for lunch. We had chicken curry, lumpia Shanghai, fresh pineapple.


    And it would not be right to have a meal in Davao without durian.


    The food is delicious – yes, including the stinky durian. We had some fresh cocoa beans right out of the pod for desert.


    Then I distributed the profit share to the farmer group as I have done in the past. I don’t just give them cash. I handed out our financial statement which outlines the exact was we calculate the profit share on the last years crop of beans. We pay the profit share after each chocolate selling cycle is complete.


    Then I did a complete chocolate tasting for the farmers of most all of our chocolate.


    They taste the chocolate we made from their beans. The farmers are always very appreciative of not only the money but also the chocolate. The hospitality of these farmers is off the charts. They go to great lengths to welcome me.


    1:00pm: We tour a cocoa farm owned by a woman who uses organic inputs for pest and disease control. We buy only organic beans. The urine from her goats is used to spray near the tress.



    The manure is used as fertilizer. The marigolds act as an insect repellant.


    She (and all of the farmers) sleeve the pods with plastic to prevent disease.


    Then the rain starts. We are near the end of rainy season. We take cover from the walls of rain on the porch of a farm house. Nescafe is served. I hate to admit it but at that moment in time it tastes really good.


    Sunday, September 2: Today I attend church with one of my hosts. I have been to his church several times. The service clocks in at a little over three hours. It is an energetic service that flies by. We Americans tend to freak if a church service lasts over one hour. I really like this church and am appreciative that Peter takes me with him each time I am in Davao.

    Monday, September 3: I am up very early to check out and take a taxi to the Davao airport. I am returning to Manila and then another Asian city to look at cocoa beans. Which one? You’ll just have to wait … . .

    Note: the 12 metric tons of Davao cocoa beans along with 2,000 units of Tableya are scheduled to leave the Port of Davao on October 29th. We hope to see them in Missouri in the last week of November.



  7. I am showing them how to tell when the beans are ready to take off the heat.
    We are on the parking of lot "city hall" roasting beans to learn about flavor.
    All the kids who were there.
    The only bummer- they intentionally burn the beans (that is the flavor they like). I experimented with a higher heat- shorter roast time & let them try it to see what they thought of the flavor.
    The farmers and me in front of our meeting spot.


  9. Davao Journal 2008


    Sitting in Dailey Grill at LAX International terminal eating some fish and chips, great cole-slaw and fries while perusing the news. Decided to check out “the news” of the day in Davao- “Military Clashes with Rebels in Davao City Today” read the headline- great!

    Waiting at my gate for PAL, which leaves at 10:35pm tonight. On the one hand, I’m excited as heck about this trip and on the other, think this is a major pain in the ass. (45 hours of travel time) I think it’s important for me to go- it’s who we are. I also think it makes our chocolate better. I hope our customers agree.


    When I got off the plane the smell hit me- brought me back to Bangkok 1980. 28 years ago and I still remember that smell of bus fumes, humidity, and tropics.

    The people who work at this airport are so nice- really nice. Customs and Immigration people smile at you and greet you warmly…very unusual.

    The sun is just now filtering out the black that I took off and landed in.


    Today we meet at 7am for breakfast. Travel by van to Mayo province. 3 hours, 2 checkpoints, beautiful along the coast.

    There is no freaking way the farmers can produce what they promised by the date promised or even close to the date. This is really really a let down after traveling all this way. I cant believe it.

    The chairman of the board of the farmer group seems genuinely sorry about what has happened. Basically – we cannot get the beans here. We leave. The van can barely make it through flooded roads. It is clear to me that even though I had an agreement on 7/15 with the farmers- at least in my mind- they had no idea that they were to deliver on 7/15 or if they did, they were smoking something or possibly delusional. I expected to arrive and inspect the shipment – was told it was all ready for me to see.

    Clearly all of this could have been avoided if Ed David would have kept in touch with the farmers and then relayed info to me, but that didn’t happen. He basically lied to me. Not another way to put it.

    On the way back to Davao everyone in the van was quiet- I finally broke the silence with- “Are you guys going to do anything? You need to call someone, text someone (they text more than any other country in the world) and SOLVE this problem.”

    I decided that I would move into “I don’t give a shit what you think, but I will get this done” mode. They brought me here – at our expense – under false pretences. I knew they were uncomfortable but I really didn’t care because we had spent so much time and money to this point.

    One of the ACDI field reps mentioned “Pastor Peter” as a possible source of beans. I said, “call him”- “lets meet with him tonight.” I pushed and finally they set it up. Plan is to meet him at our hotel tonight.

    Met Peter tonight in the hotel restaurant with Ed David, 2 field reps from ACDI. I explain the whole story to Peter, a Filipino, by the way.

    Oh- why “Pastor” Peter? Because he uses scripture referencing farming principles when training local farmers about cocoa farming.

    The most challenging part for me now is finding beans that have no chemical inputs.


    Last night I called the factory and talked to senior staff about my situation here on the ground- it was morning for them. The topic of discussion and decision was: do we compromise our buying criteria and purchase beans that have had chemical inputs? Of course we would disclose it to our customers. Lawren spoke up pretty determined: “Dad- I don’t think we should buy beans that have been sprayed with chemicals because lots of people ask us about that very thing.” As we discussed it, it became clear that we all agreed to wait on beans that had ZERO chemical inputs.


    Not feeling so good today. Stomach upset and not feeling like eating much food.

    I lay down on the bed after the call and almost didn’t wake up for my departure. Feel almost like I have the flu. Probably should have been more careful with the “raw fish in villages” thing.

    Travel a mile up the road to meet with the kids of the Malagos Elementary School.

    I told Peter yesterday that I’d love to visit the school and I know he is working on it too.

    It took an extra 30 minutes as we got stuck behind what they first thought was a funeral procession- turns out it was an organized “motorcade” to celebrate catfish…stop traffic and promote catfish. Love it! Nice guerilla marketing!

    I met with the principle of the school- a woman. This is a country of strong women- president is a woman. I’m dealing with women landowners. This should be no surprise as Mrs. Aquino came into power after the famed Marcos. Remember Imelda?

    I explain Chocolate University to the principal. I gave her the literature on our program for Boyd Elementary. I gave her a brochure on my company as well.

    At first I couldn’t tell if she understood what I was saying or was she nervous? I told her that I’d like to start a “pen-pal” program so the kids at Boyd could write their 4th grade counter-parts, so they can learn about each other’s lives.

    I asked her a couple of times and she liked the idea. I think more than anything she was overwhelmed by my visit, which was humbling to me.

    Two fourth grade teachers for 90 students. Out of nowhere they appear very enthusiastic and in four lines. They were trying to be still but not happening- they were just too excited. The principle plugged in a microphone to an amp (pretty impressive) and formally introduced me. She instructed the kids to practice their English. I spoke slowly and they got it all. I told them what I was doing there. I explained Chocolate University to them in detail and told them about the kids at Boyd. They stood at attention and listened intently. I told them about Missouri Hotel homeless shelter just a block from our factory and that many of those children (80 on any given night) attend school at Boyd.

    Then I broke out the chocolate and gave several pieces to all of the kids. Each one said “Thank you, sir”.

    Lastly, I visit the classroom to photograph so I can share with the Chocolate University students at home.


    We made plans for Peter to pick me up tonight to go with him to his church and meet his family.

    At church- 3 hours- I was feeling so bad I thought I was going to pass out. I hoped not to fall down or they might think I was “slain in the spirit.” What a beautiful and energetic church!


    Peter brought Angie to meet with me at my hotel. She listens to my story and I could tell she felt bad about what happened. She agrees to help me with processing beans at her fermentary, which is nearby the farm. I visited her farm with Peter on Wednesday.

    They said that they wanted to take me to the airport to see me off. We stopped off at Angie’s church for lunch.

    They park the car in the airport parking lot, got special passes and accompanied me all the way to the gate. I really appreciate their effort. This one hospitable place – all the way into the airport!

    About 2 minutes before boarding the plane I realize I am going to have to give in and take Imodium. Fast. Especially if I am going to travel home for 40 + hours! :)