Artisanal Hand-Crafted Fine Chocolate

Puerto Rican Chocolate Hits the Map

When I started working with chocolate, I longed to visit a cacao farm.  Whenever I visited my parents in the west-coast town of Rincon, Puerto Rico where they winter, I’d do a search for a farm nearby. Cacao was once Puerto Rico’s largest crop until a hurricane in the 17th century wiped it out.  The few trees left were abandoned for easier to grow sugar cane and coffee.

Finally in 2015 I learned of a cacao farm in Aquada, just 20 minutes from Rincon.  There I met Juan Echevarria.  His farm, the Hacienda Jean Marie, sits high on a sloping hilltop overlooking the west coast’s magnificent Mona Passage.

                          The Mona Passage

Echevarria is as much a visionary as a farmer.  He is a force behind The Puerto Rican Cacao Project, whose mission is to build a network of farmers to produce and export the world’s finest organic cacao.  The project’s steady progress was interrupted in 2017 when Hurricane Maria devastated most of the cacao trees.   But unlike the 17th century hurricane, the cacao growers dedicated themselves to rebuilding their farms.  The trees began to flourish again.

Fast forward to February 2024.  The Sunday Farmer’s Market in Rincon was abuzz with the lively co-mingling  of Spanish and English conversation and the ringing of church bells.  The neatly tiled town square was lined with palm trees, providing mottled shade for customers shopping for produce, baked goods, freshly brewed kombucha and – yes – chocolate.     

It was here that I met Nelson Omar, selling specialty chocolate bars and cacao nibs grown on his farm, Finca Montana (meaning Mountain Estate).  Omar, a native of Aquada, left his career as a professional mechanic after 20 years because “It was eating my soul.  Cacao farming is very hard but it is my passion”  he said, tapping his heart.  When I asked him if he knew Juan he replied “Of course.  He is my -how do you say? – mentor.  Through him I was able to learn all about cacao farming.”.  My heart leaped!

Finca Montana chocolate is superb.  It has a complex, slightly bitter cacao flavor with hints of tropical fruit, super smooth mouth feel and a lingering finish.  I brought home five pounds of his 70% chocolate plus lots of bars and nibs.

Nelson Omar

When I emailed Juan that I had met Omar, he replied “We are very proud of Nelson and his wife”.  Indeed, he spoke of Omar as if he were one of his children.  And in a way he is.  Echevarria‘s dream of inspiring a new generation of farmers to put Puerto Rico on the map of fine chocolate is coming to fruition.

Recently Dancing Lion Chocolate, owned by New Hampshire chocolatier Rich Tango-Lowy, featured bars he crafted from Hacienda Jean Maria trees (click here).  Finally, Puerto Rican cacao is gaining a reputation beyond its borders.  The industry is still very small comparatively speaking, but enthusiasm for Puerto Rican chocolate is catching on and production is growing.  

With joy, I will be supporting Puerto Rican cacao farming when I craft confections from Finca Montana chocolate.  With gratitude for all that chocolate is and has given me, I will share with my family and friends.  


Interested in more information on the history of Puerto Rican cacao and its resurgence?   See my previous blog posts:

At The Foot of a Cacao Tree , Visiting a Puerto Rican Cacao Farm , The Hacienda Jean Marie – Post Hurricane Maria