Thursday, September 4, 2014

Short Term Gain can Create Long Term Cost for Cacao

Chocolate may be a Billion dollar business, but more often than not, the farmers who labor on these small farms are barely getting by.  As we have mentioned before Cacao trees are part of the under-story plants and only a small party of the symphony of biodiversity in a native forest.  When Cacao is grown in a sustainable way the farmers mimic native forest.  What it cost in lower yields and increased labor is compensated in fine flavor.

Deforestation is a problem almost everywhere Cacao is grown.  Small farm families are often faces with choices for short-term gains that destroy habitat for Cacao which can take decades to rehabilitate.  Here is a first-hand account of such a story from Carolyn in Costa Rica:

It’s been a challenging week in Puerto Viejo as many trees have been cut down in the neighborhood behind Mom and Barry’s house and the soup kitchen “The Bridge”. The path the howler monkeys took behind their home which brought them countless hours of joy have been laid down and are now being made into planks. The sadness that she and Barry feel and the look of the cleared lots where it looks as if it were struck by a large tornado has our hearts sunk. I wonder how mom will find peace in the daily reminder of the destruction right under her nose. I remember last year we painted over a red X on a tree to keep it from being cut down, that tree is gone too along with countless others.
I forgive them, because they have to feed their families somehow. I am grateful for the love the trees have given us over the centuries, and for all that Mother Nature gives. 
I learned that a lady named Mrs. Hunter who came from Jamaica to set up homestead and once lived just down the road from where we are now. She encouraged family and friends to move to the area and planted cocoa. It was a time of great community and sharing and cocoa was king, creating joyful and steady income for the people.
I met an older British man at the local sports bar and grill, The Point, his father was born in Limon, and was involved in setting up the railroad for the United Fruit Company. Before the fruit company the entire region was cocoa and primary forest. The fruit Co. bought land and planted bananas and pineapple. In less than 100 years the area has seen lush Caribbean jungle, jungle with organic cocoa plantations and thriving communities deforested and replaced with non-organic bananas. 
Rich says there are programs that purchase land to save it from destruction. I have a friend who is part of a project in Tennessee; they have saved thousands of acres of precious land and resources. There is hope for us too. In a land of such beauty with many lovely resources, miracles abound! 
We have only begun, but one of our goals is to create a land trust that not only rehabilitate land, but prevent deforestation in the first place.  The long-term relationship with our farmers is important.  They are well compensated for their Cacao crop so they are not faced with tough decisions for short-term gains.  It might be easier to grow Cacao with less shade, more fertilizers and fungicides, but the cost involved in the loss of heirloom organic fine flavored beans are never worth that easier road.

We currently sell single source Matina Cacao harvested around April 15th, 2014. It was grown in the Matina conton in the Talamanco region of Costa Rica. The beans have been fermented, sun-dried and certified organic by APPTA. They are raw and clean. Even with dark roasting this bean is fruity, not bitter and considered one of the best tasting beans by the ICCO.  Please consider purchasing a sample here and contacting me here in the U.S. by email:  I look forward to hearing from you and talking about your chocolate making business and how we may work together.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Surrounded by Cacao Trees and Making Healthy Local Chocolate

-The more we learn, the more we intensify the experience and pleasure of chocolate

One of our goals in this blog is to bring you a little closer to the region the cacao is grown and the lives of those who foster the trees.  Rich and Carolyn have become quite masterful at chocolate making.  If you are like me, you will wish you had a way of beaming yourself into their kitchen.  This is an excerpt from Carolyn's diary:

A beautiful day today in Puerto Viejo Caribe, the land of chocolate by the sea! The sun was shining on us as we made a special chocolate delivery by way of bicycles, to the small town of Playa Chiquita. Our client Petra, a family friend of many years and hotel owner of “La Isla Inn”, recently had heart surgery, is on a special diet….no sweets! The chocolate we brought to her were beautiful heart shapes, 75% cocoa, sweetened with Birtch sugar made from the Birtch Tree. Birtch sugar is a wonderful compliment with its smooth taste and has no strange after taste like other substitutes I have tried! It is great for those on diets that exclude use of cane sugar for sweeteners. La isla Inn will soon be carrying this and other Siriana Cocoa products to serve to their guests! On the way back from Playa Chiquita, we stopped into a popular boutique in the center of Puerto Viejo and shared some of our dark chocolate with almond samples. The store owner Celeste, immediately placed an order for more to sell in her shop! More deliveries for tomorrow, Vive Chocolate! I am glad for the health benefits and joy our clients will be receiving from this delivery today. 
And now a little side note on cocoa and its health benefits! Upon our arrival to Puerto Viejo six months ago, I noticed my mom had a small spot/bump on her hand about half the size of a dime. She told me it had appeared months before and was VERY PAINFUL to the touch! My mother was concerned, she did not know what it was, and though she’d been treating it with various remedies; nothing seemed to make much difference. I suggested she place a bit of ground pure cocoa on the area to treat it. Within days, she began to see a noticeable change in the color and size of the spot as it SHRANK and soon after, the pain she had been experiencing COMPLETELY disappeared. It turns out the skin likes cocoa as much as the mouth! Vive the power of cocoa! Be Blessed! Caroline

Siriana Cacao

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Cacao Journey Begins

...that unexpected meeting that changes your life.  

How it began...  I was in conversation with a dear friend and mentioned how I wish I could find that gig that allowed me to meet wonderful people from all over the world, that had elements of intrigue, sexy, and doing good all wrapped into one.  This is how I came to be introduced to Rich & Carolyn.  This blog is about their story, the story of Costa Rican Cacao, its farmers/tribes, and how I got the gig with all yumminess I was looking for.

But first, this is an excerpt from Rich & Carolyn who live in Costa Rica:

Our family’s interest in traveling to Costa Rica began when our parents retired and moved to Puerto Viejo near the Talamanca mountains by the Caribbean Sea.  Mother Nancy, a professional artist and father Barry a degreed engineer, soon began a not-for-profit soup kitchen called “El Puente” (The Bridge)  to help  indigenous the Bri-Bri who were in need of support.
During one vacation to Puerto Viejo, we discovered   ”cacao trees” in the nearby orchard. Our neighbor, nine year old,  Siriana enthusiastically showed us how to make chocolate from the beans of a cacao pod we had dried in the sun, and simple ingredients of maple syrup and powdered milk  from the kitchen!
We became interested in learning more about chocolate and the history of cocoa in the Talamanca region. We were fascinated by stories told to us about cocoa, by tribal members, locals, and people who had planted and harvested cacao for generations in this area.  
The more we learned and the more we visited the beautiful  Puerto Viejo Talamanca by the sea,  the more we dreamed of helping the community, creating opportunities  for local farmers and people needing work.  We also began to discover the beauty and nutritional benefits of cocoa and why cacao from the Talamanca Region of Costa Rica is uniquely special! 

After becoming established there the work began to find markets for the cacao beans that was already being farmed, and to save the existing farms from developers.  Our goal is to raise the standard of living for the farmers we work with and purchase more cacao farm land that is falling prey to developers. We want to preserve what is left of this precious indigenous food. We will be sharing more stories that connect you, the chocolate maker, to the bean growing process.  When you use our beans, this blog will become a resource for you and allow you to tell your bean-to-bar story.
Rich & Carolyn are in Costa Rica and I am here in the middle of the United States to work with you.
From Pod to Fermentation Process