Heirloom cacao beans are the jewels of the cacao tree, yielding the finest flavor. They are endowed with the historic, cultural, botanical, geographic and flavor values that are the foundation of the best tasting chocolate.
All of our single-origin chocolate at Chokola Bean to Bar is made only with cocoa beans and sugar—there is no added cocoa butter, lecithin, or vanilla. Our chocolate is free of soy, dairy, eggs, and gluten, and it is made in a factory that does not process nuts.
MAYA MOUNTAIN: Belize
Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) works with about 330 smallholder Belizean cacao farmers, and connects them to awesome chocolate makers in the USA and Europe – like Dandelion Chocolate! The Toledo District of southern Belize—where MMC sources the vast majority of its cacao—is populated primarily by indigenous Q’eqchi and Mopan Maya. A staggering 69% of the population is at or under the regional poverty line, and most of the farmers we work with have about 1-3 acres of farming land. Until recently, it was extremely difficult for farming families to get their cocoa to the market, and for them to secure a fair price once they made it there. Maya Mountain Cacao was created with the mission of building a more farmer friendly model, and we’ve been learning as we go. Since we began, we’ve been able to generate up to 400% income increases for farmers through improved market access, micro-credit opportunities, and 100%+ yield improvements on farms through a combination of technical services and market incentives.
The village of Chuao—where Venezuela’s finest beans are grown—is nestled between the sea and the mountains located in the valley of the cloud forest, and can be reached only by boat or on foot through the jungle.
The secluded village of Chuao takes you away from the modern world to a setting of overwhelming nature and a 400-year tradition of cacao production, carried out by its native African American residents. Chuao's last-surviving aristocratic Spanish heir, Dona Catalina, gifted the plantation and her slaves to the Franciscan friars, who erected Chuao's iconic church, cacao drying patio, processing area, and a place for social and cultural gathering. In the 1960s, historical justice came to the valley when the workers were given the farm. Today only descendants of the original slaves, mostly women, work the cacao plantation. The women sing while they work, "long live the Chuao cacao, founded by Dona Catalina, it's rich and tasty and harvested by all of us."
A certificate of traceability issued by La Empresa Campesina de Chuao as the only farming association guarantees that cocoa was allocated to Chokola Bean to Bar
Beneath the heights of Peru’s Machu Picchu, the astonishing citadel built by the ancient Incas, grow the heirloom Chuncho cacaos that have survived the passage of time in the Urubamba Valley. The old and sturdy Chuncho trees, some of which are 200 years old, grow at an altitude nearly unheard of for growing cacao.
Cacao scientists believe the old Chunchos could well be the aromatically richest cacaos in the world. The local families are exceptionally proud of their Chuncho heritage and many families carefully harvest beans from their oldest trees to make their own chocolate. The Andes Mountains are the home of the endangered Condor, the largest flying bird in the world. The Chuncho families will be even prouder to see the first family of condors released in the wild again as a result of Original Beans’ Cusco Chuncho chocolate.
On the southern pacific coast of Colombia, Tumaco is a region that has been hard hit by historical political conflict and plagued by narco trafficking. Its predominantly Afro-Colombian population has faced a great deal of prejudice, and sustainable local development has been hijacked by extensive penetration of paramilitary and narco groups. When Cacao Hunters first explored the region back in 2011, they found cacao everywhere, drying on any flat surface farmers could find, including the road. The sheer volume of cacao was overwhelming, and the opportunity for quality and systemic improvement was obvious. Cacao Hunters has worked with three community cooperatives to introduce centralized processing and drying. Because of the introduction of centralized processing and Cacao Hunters’ expertise in high-quality flavor development, farmers today earn 70% more income from cacao than they did when selling dried beans to the commodity market supply chain, and now have a true sustainable alternative to coca production or involvement in the narco groups.
HACIENDA AZUL: Costa Rica
Hacienda Azul is a small farm located in the rural town of Turrialba in the province of Cartago, a couple of hours east of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. It is managed by the Zeuner family and employs eight people full time. The famed CATIE university of agriculture is also located here and has provided five different clones to the farm. The beans are washed prior to drying and they’ve found this cacao to be fascinating for its versatility.
COSTA ESMERALDAS: Equador
Costa Esmeraldas Cacao Co. is the fruit of a dream to reconnect with nature, our roots and genuine flavors. A family owned cacao orchard operated in the northern coast of Ecuador, in the Esmeraldas province since 2008, Costa Esmeraldas have made efforts to rehabilitate cattle pasture and mono-crop forest plantations into agroforestry systems where cacao is intercropped with fruit and local trees. One of the goals is to protect primary and secondary-growth forest, where Costa Esmeraldas can host local and endangered species left without a home due to the continuous expansion of the agricultural frontier.
LAGUNA LACHUA: Guatemala
Laguna Lachuá is a large pristine cenote lake designated a national park in 1976 and a Ramsar site in 2006. The “Eco-region Lachuá” around the lake is home to Q’eqchi’ Maya families, many of whom live off grid and rely on production of cacao, honey, cardamom, corn and other crops for their livelihoods. Cacao farmers are organized into three certified organic community associations: ASODIRP, ASOSELNOR, and K’ATB’ALPOM, each with its own fermentation and drying operation. Lachuá communities have planted over 245 hectares of new cacao since 2014 and improved financial literacy in cacao production through projects supported by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), FUNDALACHUA, and FundaSistemas, with the shared goal of protecting the Laguna and improving their quality of life.
KOKOA KAMILI: Tanzania
Based in the southwestern Tanzanian village of Mbingu, Brian LoBue’s and Simran Bindra’s social enterprise Kokoa Kamili buys freshly harvested, unfermented cacao beans from local smallholder farms and ferments them in a centralized facility. By carefully controlling fermentation and drying, Kokoa Kamili consistently produces delicious, high-quality beans that fetch a premium price from craft chocolate makers. The payment premium makes its way back to cacao growers and helps raise the price floor for Tanzanian cocoa.
Nate admires Kokoa Kamili’s positive community impact, and enjoys working with their flavorful cocoa. He low-roasts this harvest to balance fruity, floral, and earthy notes.
We have been working with Kokoa Kamili since 2014 and since then, it has been inspiring to see their growth: from shipping their first container to supplying chocolate makers around the world. Learn more about Kokoa Kamili.
Bejofo Estate is an organic cacao orchard that makes up one part of the 2000-hectare Akesson Estate in northwest Madagascar’s Sambirano valley. The Akesson Estate is divided into four smaller estates--Madirofolo, Menavava, Bejofo, and Ambolikapik. It is managed by Bertil Akesson, who has specialized in growing ﬁne cocoa, pepper, and other spices for many years. Bejofo Estate produces 300 tons of cocoa a year. Bertil also sells chocolate made out of his own cocoa under the “Akesson’s Organic” brand, which is sold throughout the world.
Cacao was introduced to Madagascar by French colonialists in the 19th century. They ﬁrst planted Criollo, some of which is still around today. However, the majority of today’s crops in Madagascar are considered Trinitario. The country produces nearly 3000 tons of beans a year. Most of the trees are concentrated in the Sambirano Valley in the northwest, where soil and climate are ideal for growing high quality cacao.
These extremely rare, Heirloom (Silvestre, Wild) cacao beans are collected by hand by indigenous low-lands Bolivians in remote areas of the Beni regions (Huacaraje and Baures areas). ThEy are processed by Volker Lehman's Tranquilidad Estate. These cacao beans are significantly smaller than hybrid beans but they have 10% more cacao butter, and lots more flavor. Hybrid cacao beans have about 55% cacao butter, while Heirloom Beniano have 65%, which means higher percentage chocolate on the bar without additional cacao butter.
Volker left his native Germany for Bolivia in 2000 as trained agriculturist and international agroforestry expert. With farmer family background, he developed the jungle estate “Tranquilidad” and a wild harvest collection system with local and indigenous families throughout the Beni Department. He uses selected wet beans for box and bag fermentation and sells limited volumes around the world.