Chocolate comes from a fruit: the Theobroma cacao pod. The cacao pod interior contains cacao beans, from which all chocolate products originate. To make real fine quality chocolate, the cacao used is very important.
Our cacao pods are organically cultivated and ethically-sourced from farms across Latin America and the Caribbean. Before chocolate reaches our shelves, a lot of hard work takes place to ensure quality in the growing, harvesting, and processing of cacao on farms.
The art of chocolate making and cacao cultivation go hand in hand and have an equal impact on the quality of the final chocolate product. We maintain close relationships with the farmers we work with and highly respect and admire their craft. We have visited almost every cacao origin we feature in our product line.
The star of our chocolate is our fine quality cacao. Here are some of the origins we work with:
Hacienda Victoria, Guayaquil Ecuador:
This family-run farm grows organically cultivated cacao of the “Arriba Cacao” genetic variety in the coastal town of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Historically, a large amount of the cacao grown in Ecuador was the CCN-51 government subsidized variety known for being high-yielding, disease-resistant, and produced for the commodity chocolate industry.
Hacienda Victoria, however, does not grow CCN-51 and instead focuses on fine flavor cacao produced for the highest quality chocolate making. They manage the entire production process, from the cacao tree seedling to the final product for export. On approximately 500 hectares of land, the family operation oversees the planting of the trees, the harvesting of the cacao pods, and the post-harvest processing such as fermentation and drying.
Don Fortunato Farm, Marañon, Peru:
In the 1800’s a highly sought-after cacao variety called the “Pure Nacional” was grown in Peru and exported for use in fine chocolate markets across Europe and North America. In 1919 the trees were devastated by disease and thought to be extinct.
The variety was recently rediscovered growing wild in the Marañon Valley in Peru’s Amazon. When found, it was observed that the trees had mutated and produce 40% white beans. So, even the darkest chocolate bar made with these beans has a milk chocolate appearance. The cacao that we buy comes from Don Fortunato’s farm, which is considered special because it is where the Mother Tree was found. This tree possesses DNA identical to the genetic marker for the Pure Nacional variety.
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Monte Grande, Coatepeque, Guatemala:
The Monte Grande family farm was established by the Conde family in 1876 and is still thriving today under the leadership of Antonio Conde, a 26-year-old graduate of Earth University in Costa Rica. We playfully call him our “farm bae”. Along with cacao, the land was historically used to cultivate rubber and palm.
Antonio’s goal is to increase cacao agroforestry systems promoting biodiversity on the farm to replace the old palm and rubber crops. They employ about 200 people to maintain their farm and are setting a new standard for sustainable cacao cultivation in their community. The cacao is grown on roughly 20 hectares and is known for its distinct sweet raspberry flavor.
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Oko Caribe, Duarte, Dominican Republic:
The seasoned experts behind Oko Caribe export 500+ tons of cacao annually and work in collaboration with 150+ farmers in the Duarte province of the Dominican Republic. Along with ensuring a consistent demand for cacao for farmers, Oko Caribe provides them with technical training, microfinance loans, and a path to organic certification.
The Trinitario and Criollo variety cacao they produce grows alongside citrus, mango, avocado, coconut, plantain, and zapote trees. They purchase wet cacao from a network of farmers and process the cacao at a centralized fermentary. They ensure that the wet cacao purchased reaches the fermentation center in under 6 hours from the moment of harvest in order to ensure the highest possible quality.
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PISA, Acul-du-Nord, Haiti:
Cacao in Haiti has largely been sold unfermented for very little to speculators from the commodity market. PISA changed the scene when they introduced one of the country’s first cacao processing facilities focusing on fine flavor and quality.
Since 2014, they have been sourcing from 1,500+ farmers in the Acul-du-Nord region and fermenting in a centralized facility to control flavor outcomes of a repeatable and meticulous fermentation and drying system. The cacao grows primarily alongside mango, avocado, citrus, yam, and plantain trees. They produce an especially fruity cacao with notes of tart cherry and dried fig. The majority of the cacao comes from small plots of land also used for subsistence farming, which promotes agroforestry systems that help preserve Haiti’s limited forest cover.
COCANO, Port-de-Paix, Haiti:
Over the past year, we have been working with the COCANO co-op based in Northern Haiti to improve the quality of their cacao and create new revenue streams for farmers. We've traveled to the north of Haiti several times to provide training and the Haitian farmers are on the path to export fine quality cacao. We work closely with their team of producers to provide post-harvest training so that one day they can sell premium cacao to us and many other factories.
COCANO has mainly focused on coffee production until recently, when farmers wanted to explore cacao cultivation. We launched a milk chocolate bar infused with their coffee beans that Panther Coffee has helped them grow.
Arhuacos, Sierra Nevada, Colombia:
This cacao is grown by an indigenous tribe called the Arhuacos in the remote jungles of Colombia. They, along with two other indigenous groups preserve the biodiverse sanctuary in which they live and farm. They practice an immense reverence for their natural environment and believe in caring for every living being with equal respect.
Their cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees, beans, corn, and timber. The Arhuacos Tribe diligently safeguards the land upon which this cacao grows. On our visit, the chief of the Tribe, Mamo Camilo, offered us his blessing to produce this bar and tell the story of the Arhuacos outside their territory.
Shop our Arhuacos bar:
Historically, this region has been plagued by economic and political instability that has for long prevented economic activity to thrive. Illicit business operations have often stumped the development of the area. In more recent years, a growing interest in craft cacao has led to an increase in organized cacao growing and trade initiatives in Tumaco. The region is largely inhabited by Afro-Colombians, where cacao grows in abundance.
Their cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees, beans, corn, and timber. The farmers are able to earn a much higher wage by selling cacao and being part of supply chains that strive to reward farmers fairly.