Episode 5: Ghost Chocolate
We’re back in Belize, deep in one of the world’s most pristine rainforests, hanging with Jacob Marlin, a man who has devoted his entire life to preserving it. Jacob was part of the scientific team that first explored the region in the 1990s. He noticed wild cacao in the forest, but didn’t think much about it until 20 years later. Then he learned about Criollo, the sacred chocolate of the Maya, which was replaced decades ago by high-yield strains with worse flavor. But the look and location of his trees makes him wonder if they might have some Criollo parentage. A genetic test shocks everyone: They are 100% Criollo– meaning these were the original beans that Montezuma hoarded in vaults with his gold. And there’s a reason why– the pure chocolate flavors are stunning. Better still, they might hold the key to restoring the rainforest. Meanwhile, Volker’s life is headed in the opposite direction. He takes on investors, puts big money into his cacao operation in the Indigenous Territories…and almost no cacao comes out. Was he double-crossed? Maybe…Regardless, he can’t pay his bills. He gets sued, loses everything, goes bankrupt, his marriage crumbles, and he walks away from chocolate forever, a bitter, burnt-out husk.