“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time. ”
– Henri Frederic Amiel
Last month I was lucky enough to join UK chocolate brand Hasslachers on a trip to Colombia to shoot a series of images to bulk up their marketing, branding and social media.
Hasslachers is a high end chocolate brand based out of Bath and is aiming to bring back the glamour and luxury of drinking hot chocolate. Their drinking chocolate is entirely grown and produced in Colombia which meant we had to go right to the source to capture the full bean to bar experience.
Having been to Colombia once in the past I was excited to return and explore even more of this beautiful country and meet more of the warm and friendly people that call Colombia home. We’d planned out a full week, taking us from the busy streets of Bogota to the lush and tropical “Coffee Zone” and ending in the arid and fossil rich Villa de Leyva.
Our first stop was a locally owned and small scale cacao farm where I finally saw where chocolate begins. Underneath tall banana trees sat almost alien looking pods waiting to be hacked open. To my surprise the fruit inside was pure white and the flavour is something that is almost impossible to describe, a combination of mango, peach and kiwi all mixed together into a sweet and tasty experience. The seeds are then fermented, dried, and roasted to continue on their journey to become chocolate!
We spent a day with Javier and his family at their plantation before heading back through the clouds to Bogota where our second shoot awaited. For our second shoot we ventured into the La Candelaria for a series of photo shoots centered around the local experience of enjoying a mug of hot chocolate. The colourful buildings, cobblestone roads and contagious energy of the models made it an easy afternoon of photos!
Our third day might just be my favourite, after a rough and rainy start outside the town of Facatavia, we scaled a hilltop, built a huge campfire and brought in horses, dogs, cowboys, and as much hot chocolate as we could carry.
The afternoon and evening felt like a scene from a movie as the light drifted in and out of the sky and the new friends huddled around the campfire enjoyed conversations and of course some chocolate. The photos turned out to be some of my favourite lifestyle photos I’ve ever taken.
I was even persuaded to ride a horse for the first time!
Day four saw us flying bright and early to the coffee zone, a region lush with coffee trees, pineapple farms, and more cacao plantations. We arrived at Granja Luker, one of the only research centres for cocoa in the world. We shot another afternoon of cacao production before heading off to our last official stop, a nearby panela factory.
Panela, which is unrefined whole cane sugar, was interesting to watch being made. The sugar cane stalks are pressed through a machine which carries the juice to a huge boiler which is actually fuelled by burning the pressed husks of the sugar cane. Then a series of boilers reduce the boiled down mixture to a thick sugary syrup that is pressed into loaves and packed up for use across Colombia.
Once we finished with the panela shoot we enjoyed a sun-ripened pineapple before an early night to prepare for our last few days. We jetted back through the coffee zone to Bogota where we packed up the car and drove a few hours to the picturesque town of Villa de Leyva.
The town, founded in the 1500’s is a beautiful oasis complete with a massive cobbled square, white colonial style buildings and lots of tasty food. We enjoyed a few days break in the town, wandering through the shops, hiking up one of the nearby mountains, and enjoying the end of a busy but fulfilling journey through the country.
While the trip to Colombia was a “work” trip, I really felt like it was also a personal one as well, I was able to explore more of the country that I had in the past, meet some generous and friendly new friends who will hopefully enjoy all the photos that we took and made some memories that I’ll be able to look back on and enjoy.
Now I’m off to enjoy a nice mug of hot chocolate!