Episode 2: Bolivia for Dummies
It’s 2022 and Rowan returns to visit Tranquilidad, Volker Lehmann’s cacao estate, and finds a changed man. Somewhere between their 2010 journey and now, Volker’s life fell apart. This episode goes back to tell Voker’s origin story, starting in 1991, when the young botanist wanders his way through a Bolivia awash in cocaine smuggling. A chance meeting with an 85-year-old chocolate maker in La Paz leads him on a trek into the wetlands in search of wild cacao. He finds it in a place called Baures—vast forests of cacao growing on raised islands that turn out to be the ruins of an ancient civilization. He buys a cacao forest, builds a house, names the place Tranquilidad, and tries to find a prestige chocolate house to work with his beans. For years, he can’t. But finally, a famous Swiss chocolate maker agrees to place a bet on him… they tell him how special the beans are; that no one believed wild cacao still existed… that they haven’t tasted anything like them before! But what happens next is going to wreck him.