Currently we hand select cacao from Belize, Ecuador, and Tanzania for ceremonial usage. With the growth of the bean to bar chocolate movement there is more and more amazing cacao out there, but we still find very few sources that live up to our requirements for making pure cacao paste for ceremony. We also very much believe that the cacao chooses us. Read on to learn about each of our three origins, and to find answers to some FAQs.
This ceremonial cacao comes from 300 small (1-5 acre) organic family farms in the foothills of southern Belize. 75% of our farming families are indigenous Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya, and they grow their pure raw cacao with deep respect and understanding of the local ecology. We've invested in a permaculture demonstration farm here to pioneer innovative agroforestry techniques, advance cacao cultivation in the region, and propagate heirloom seedlings. This is the first cacao we used for ceremonial purposes. This cacao has an heirloom designation by the Heirloom Cacao Project, and is produced by Maya Mountain Cacao.
This ceremonial cacao comes from the tropical northwest coast of Ecuador, and is grown by producers who have been cultivating cacao there for over sixty years. The cacao is permaculture shade grown with the specific goal of improving the health and vibrancy of the rainforest ecosystem - we call this regenerative cacao growing. We love this cacao as it offers a rich chocolate flavor that makes a great drinking chocolate that works well for blends and creative recipes.
This ceremonial cacao comes from 1500 small (0.5-2 acre) organic family farms in the Kilombero Valley, which borders Udzungwa Mountains National Park, a spot known for its biodiversity. Our partners here are the Kokoa Kamili cooperative, and their model is inspired by our partners in Belize, although they are now working with almost five times as many farmers, truly spreading the social impact. In it's first three years, Kokoa Kamili farmers have received the highest prices for cacao in Tanzania. The cacao from this region is exceptional as a pure dark chocolate as it has a higher cacao butter content than average, resulting in a silky smoothness.
Frequently Asked Questions
I'm not sure which origin to get. Where do I start?
Our ceremonial cacao starter kit has samples of all three of our origins and our two blends, as well as our cacao nibs, so that you can try everything and choose for yourself! Everyone's pallet and relationship to cacao is different - we offer so many different cacaos because they are all unique and everyone has a different favorite. Each sample makes enough for two drinks.
How do you ensure quality of the cacao?
Our ceremonial cacao is grown only in the most pristine areas of the earth, often bordering extensive protected lands, so the cacao agroforesty acts as an ecologically diverse buffer to the protected lands and benefits from pure water and uncontaminated soils. The pods are hand harvested when perfectly ripe and brought to cooperatively owned artisanal fermentation facilities, where the flavor of the cacao beans develop for 5-7 days in fermentation boxes before being sun dried (not gas dried) for one to two weeks. All of our cacao is hand sorted before being shipped to us in large burlap sacks, and then hand sorted again when it arrives at our chocolate studio. Our studio is a dedicated chocolate making temple ... it only ever sees the highest quality cacao that we source and it is all run on our custom made artisan equipment. We work with small batches so we can pay highest attention to quality.
Is your cacao organic certified?
Yes, all of our cacao is organic certified, which dictates rigorous guidelines not just for the growing process but also all the way through the fermentation facility, shipping of the raw cacao beans, and the making of cacao paste at our studio. While organic is just one part of what we look for in sourcing our cacaos, it's an important baseline.
Is your cacao fair trade certified?
No, we are not fair trade certified, and deliberately so. You can easily buy "fair trade" cacao that has bene grown on a large plantation, and has minimal positive social impact in the community. Our Belizean and Tanzanian cacao is not fair trade certified, yet we believe it has a greater social impact because they both use an innovative cooperative model that buys freshly harvested cacao from networks of small farmers (300 and 1200 farmers each). Self reported and third party social impact assessment shows this type of cacao purchasing to have extensive social impact in local communities. Regarding price, we have direct relationships with our partners (sometimes this is called "direct trade") and pay our farmers much more (25%-50% premium) than they would receive under a third party fair trade certification (10% premium). We also regularly visit our sources in person to verify growing and labor practices, and we collaborate with other chocolate companies to collaboratively verify our sources. We're big fans of what we call "transparent trade" - we will happily share everything about our cacao origins as we're thrilled about them!
Where do you ship from?
We ship from our chocolate studio in Sonoma County, CA. That means fast, trackable, and affordable delivery throughout the US - we deliver to most major cities within two days, most of the SF Bay area within one day, and just about everywhere within three days.
Have a question we didn't address here? Contact us and we'll happily help out.