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.
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 beee grown on a large plantation, and has minimal positive social impact in the community. We believe our cacaos have a greater social impact because they use an innovative cooperative model that buys freshly harvested cacao from networks of hundreds of small farmers. 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!
I'm not sure which origin to get. Where do I start?
Our ceremonial cacao starter kit has samples of all of our varieties of cacao. 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.