A Tropical Journey of Loss, Love and Chocolate

From the time I was a child, I dreamt of living on a tropical island in an exotic land. I imagined snorkeling turquoise waters filled with exotic fish while listening to birds chirping from the tree tops. I imagined kayaking from island to island meeting new people and discovering new magical places. I imagined spicy food with foreign flavours, and then eating it on the beach over a simple fire and a beautiful sunset.

There were times I could smell the salty heavy air of the tropics as my imagination would run wild. I could feel myself immersed in the cool blue sea and hear the sounds of the mystical music from shore.

I had studied and lived in Mexico as a college student and had also been born and raised in California and crossed the border many times, usually finding more color and beauty on the other side. After years of daydreaming, I convinced my husband to take the leap with me. We quit our Bay Area jobs and planned a journey.

After months of traveling, we arrived on our tropical island and settled in quite nicely. We had trouble finding a goodc up of coffee so decided to open a coffee shop. We traveled all over the region to discover the finest coffee and then imported an espresso machine from Italy and started our little coffee business. It was very well received and we quickly became part of the community.

Shortly there after our daughter was born. Everything seemed like it was perfect. She brought so much joy to both of us. We spent our mornings with her at our coffee shop and our afternoons swimming with her under the sea. Sometimes the two of us would just sit and stare at her with awe. We were so in love with her and we were so happy. We felt like we had the perfect little family and we were living the lives of our dreams.

A few months after she was born my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We were told he had a month to live. We put up an amazing fight and he lived for a year, but at the end we lost the battle and we lost him.

So here I was on my tropical island, heart broken and devastated. My life seemed totally shattered and my dreams were dead. The blissful love and happiness we had was over. I wan’t even quite 30 years old and I had a baby, a business and a dead husband.

As the sadness and fear sunk in deep, I pulled myself up with a simple smile from my baby girl. She held the key to keeping me motivated. She was too young to understand what had happened and I needed to be there for her. I needed to be strong for the both of us.

She and I spent our days at the coffee shop and our afternoons in the sea. We had a simple life in a rustic hut by the waters edge. In the evenings I started making chocolate. She would sit and watch and play on the counter top while I would make exotic chocolate concoctions. I knew chocolate would elevate our mood and the more I made, the happier we were.

When people came to visit, I would bring out a platter of chocolate truffles. They all had exotic flavoured fillings, like lime coconut, passion fruit and mango. When we would go for a walk, we would forage what we could find and make a new chocolate bar or a new type of truffle.

As our passion for chocolate escalated, so did our travels. We started traveling to remote islands, searching for the best cacao possible to make our chocolate.

Then word got out and people started ordering our chocolates for weddings and events. The next thing you know we had rented a little shack by the water front and had turned it into a chocolate shop. Our passion became an obsession and we traveled all over to find the very best cacao, we trekked through jungles in the mountains of remote regions talking to cacao farmers and learning every thing we could possibly know about chocolate. We learned how to farm the cacao, to ferment, dry, roast, winnow, conch and temper the chocolate.

It’s been ten years since we first opened our chocolate shop and it has taken us on a journey beyond anything we could have ever dreamed up. We have catered to celebrities, been contracted by countries, participated in festivals and have received global recognition for our craft. We are incredibly grateful. Our journey hasn’t been an easy one, but at the end of the day, here we are, doing what we love most, making chocolate, together.

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Megan Alexander

Megan Alexander

Chocolate maker. Journalist. Vegan foodie. Traveler. Optimist. Owner at Chocolateria Isla Bella .www.chocolateriaislabella.com