Cacao Sourcing

CENTRAL AMERICA

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Oko Caribe

ÖKO Caribe was founded in 2006 by Gualberto Acebey Torrejon and Adriano De Jesus Rodriguez,who both have over 20 years of experience in cacao production, including working as technicos (trainers who teach farmers agricultural best practices) at Conocado, the largest cocoa producer group in the Dominican Republic, and biggest Fair Trade certified cocoa co-op in the world. They decided to set out on their own and started ÖKO Caribe, a mission-driven cacao sourcing company based just outside San Francisco de Macoris. They buy wet beans from local farms, then ferment and dry them to perfection.

The farms are located in several zones outside of San Francisco de Macoris: Ponton, Pimentel, San Felipe, Los Lanos de Castillo (the biggest cacao producing zone in the Dominican Republic), Ramonel, Coto, and Duarte. Adriano and Gualberto have developed strong, long-term relationships with these farms to help cultivate a better and more stable price for their cacao than they were able to achieve selling to other buyers.

Reserva Zorzal

 

ÖKO Caribe was founded in 2006 by Gualberto Acebey Torrejon and Adriano De Jesus Rodriguez,who both have over 20 years of experience in cacao production, including working as technicos (trainers who teach farmers agricultural best practices) at Conocado, the largest cocoa producer group in the Dominican Republic, and biggest Fair Trade certified cocoa co-op in the world. They decided to set out on their own and started ÖKO Caribe, a mission-driven cacao sourcing company based just outside San Francisco de Macoris. They buy wet beans from local farms, then ferment and dry them to perfection.


GUATEMALA

Finca Chimelb

Finca Chimelb is a truly magnificent, private farm located in Lanquin, Alta Verapaz. It's the largest cacao farm in Alta Verapaz and they cultivate coffee, rubber, eucalyptus, and pine, as well as cacao. They have roughly 70 hectares of cocoa (~170 acres), in different stages of production, and plan to reach 150 hectares of cacao in the next 2 years. They also have a clonal garden and are highly technical in how they plant. The wide varieties of genetics on the farm include the rare and mysterious Seleccion Guatemalteca (SGU) clones, local trees originally identified through a large national university selection project in the 1970s. In this stunning picture everything that you see is the Chimelb farm, including the centuries-old white church in the background which affords amazing views of the mountains above and cacao below!

We find the flavor to be similar to the Lachuá micro lot -- brown fruit, with some light red fruit notes and a nutty finish.

Lachuá

Farmers in this region live in the area around Laguna Lachuá, a pristine lake in the middle of a national park in the Alta Verapaz department. The Lachuá associations are part of a protection program for the national park reserve – the Laguna Lachuá Reserve. Farmers here are Q'eqchi Maya, who grow cardamom and corn, as well as cacao. Many farmers still live entirely off the grid, in areas without electricity or phone signal. Clonal varieties include a mix of trinitarios, upper Amazon forasteros, and amelonados, with some presence of Nacional.  With technical and market support from Cacao Verapaz, the cacao from this region has quickly become renowned in the craft chocolate market. In 2017 Cacao Verapaz is deepening the connection with the three Lachuá smallholder farmers associations by hiring full time staff to monitor and control the fermentation and drying process. This is part of a larger effort to maintain and continue to improve quality and consistency in these lots. We find the bean to have a bright fruit flavor with light acidity and a brown fruit finish.


SOUTH AMERICA

BOLIVIA

Alto Beni

This cacao grows in the Alto Beni region of Bolivia and is collected, fermented and dried by the Alto Beni Cacao Company. All the beans come from small-scale farmers who are paid premium prices for their production and use cacao as a main source of income in the rural area. In previous years, the beans have varied in quality due to farm level fermentation and drying. This year, the founders launched a centralized fermentation and drying facility and with support from Uncommon Cacao, made critical adjustments to the collection, fermentation and drying process which we've found have introduced consistency and improved quality to the bean. Previous harvests have been certified organic but this year’s harvest is not certified (though organically cultivated).


ECUADOR

Costa Esmeraldas

Costa Esmeraldas is a family owned and operated 100-hectare cacao farm. All members of the Salazar family (Fredy, Monica, and siblings Freddy and Indira) actively participate in the cacao business. Freddy is directly responsible for managing operations at the farm and post-harvest center.

Management of the cacao orchards create over 40 full-time jobs within the local community in rural Esmeraldas. The post-harvest facility is built on a nearby off-farm site with an unusually dry and sunny micro-climate which greatly limits mold development and bacterial spoilage during the drying process. A brand-new fermentation facility was designed to maximize quality and consistency in processing while also using efficient design features to minimize worker fatigue and injury risk.

All cacao is sun dried on sliding mesh racks. High-walled polyethylene tunnels cover all drying structures. Gradual drying is practiced during the first three days. Finish-drying to a moisture content of 7% is on concrete patios. 

All dry cacao is stored in breathable jute bags for at least two months to allow oxidation and volatilization of acidity. After aging, beans are checked for moisture content, and if necessary, spread for re-drying. To prevent moisture ingress, contaminating aromas, and insect infestation, all aged cacao is stored and shipped in GrainPro-lined jute sacks.



PERU

Ucayali River

Ucayali River Cacao is a central fermentary that works with cocoa farmers along the Ucayali River outside of the Peruvian city of Pucallpa. The region has historically been afflicted with unrest from narco-trafficking and the presence of the Shining Path militant group. Ucayali River Cacao has partnered with USAID and Alianza Peru to give local farmers access to an alternate market to cocaine. Working with around 400 smallholder farmers with one to three hectares of land each, Ucayali River Cacao buys wet cacao at a premium price. They have worked with Daniel O’Doherty of Cacao Services to hone their fermenting and drying processes.


There are three groups of cacao that can be found in the Ucayali region: various Trinitario clones, CCN-51 and what the locals call “comun”. The comun varieties are similar to Trinitario, lower in bitterness and astringency. Ucayali River Cacao purchases only the comun and Trinitario clone varieties.

AFRICA

MADAGASCAR

Akesson Estate

Certified Organic – Located in the Sambirano Valley, near Ambanja, in the North-West of Madagascar, Bertil Åkesson’s estate spreads over about 2000 ha and is divided into smaller plantations like Ambolikapiky. Since 1920, these farms produce world-famous aromatic cocoa and today most of the top chefs and chocolate makers around the world use cocoa from this estate. Besides 300 tons of Trinitario cocoa produced every year, a very limited quantity of Criollo beans – 2 tons per year – is harvested separately to make this chocolate. It has a very expressive cocoa aroma with subtle fruity-sweet tartness and pleasant flavour notes that evoke citrus and red berries.

TANZANIA

Kokoa Kamili

At Kokoa Kamili, they work in the Kilombero Valley area of Morogoro Region. Approximately a ten hour drive from the country's main city of Dar es Salaam, their operations are based in the village of Mbingu (Kiswahili for Heaven) bordering the beautiful Udzungwa Mountain National Park. Mbingu is fairly rural with no access to electricity or tarred roads for about sixty kilometers. 

Tanzanian cocoa has a unique and delicious inherent flavour - the genetics and the growing environment result in a great tasting bean. However,  the fermenting and drying that takes place after harvesting is not always done well at the farm level. Cocoa in Tanzania is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers - Tanzania has one of the lowest GDP per capita rates in the world and farmers in rural areas often live hand-to-mouth. Before Kokoa Kamili the only companies in the country were focused on buying large volumes of commodity cocoa - farmers had no incentive to improve quality. 

They saw this as a gap. By purchasing cocoa straight from the pod, they were able to save farmers the time and hard work they would have to spend fermenting and drying cocoa. Farmers have already told them how pleased they are to have extra time to tend to their cocoa trees and other farms. In addition, they have committed to paying a price premium above prevailing market rates -  in 2013 we paid a premium pf 23%, in 2014 we were able to stretch this to 24%

After purchasing wet cocoa, they ferment it at their custom built fermentation lines where they are able to constantly monitor the fermentation process. After fermentation, they move the beans to our drying tables for sun-drying. There they are constantly monitored and turned - resulting in Tanzania's highest quality cocoa.