Region: Alta Verapaz
Source Type: Co-operative with centralized fermentation facilities
Beans Source: Grown by farmers in the co-op
Fermentation Style: Side by side boxes, fermented for 7 – 8 days
Drying Style: Greenhouse design with mesh covered decks, 5-7 days
Cultivation Notes: Majority of trees are UF-667 and other UF grown by indigenous Mayan families
Exporter: Cacao Verapaz
Importer: Atlantic Cocoa
Tasting Notes: Chocolatey, nutty
Start of working relationship: 2014
Last Visit: March 2016 by Greg
Tonnes Purchased in 2016: 1.5 MT
Purchased TOTAL (lifetime): ~7.7 MT
Since 2014, we have been purchasing beans from Cacao Verapaz S.A., a social enterprise and export group that works with primarily indigenous Maya farmers in the Alta Verapaz department of northern Guatemala, one of the poorest regions in the country. In the Cahabón region of Alta Verapaz, Cacao Verapaz works with ADIOESMAC (Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Ox’ Eek Santa María Cahabón), a group of 43 farming families, offering technical support as well as training on processing techniques so that the farmers are able to sell processed beans at a higher price in comparison to selling wet beans.
Cacao is a promising source of income for the community. The reputation of cacao from the area has continued to grow and production has steadily risen. 2017 saw the construction of a new fermentation and drying facility financed by the government’s Rural Development Program of the North (PRODENORTE) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The new facility includes a 15 by 20 meter warehouse and training center, new fermentation boxes, and a new drying deck and patio for the association. This significant investment in the Tzalamtun community of Cahabón is due to the recognized potential of the area.
Some believe that Guatemala is the birthplace of cacao which fuels a desire for development in this sector. The García administration planted many UF-667 seedlings (a specific clone known for its productivity and size) but prices were low as the cacao was unfermented and targeted to the domestic market only. Cacao Verapaz’s role in the area since 2013 (and with ADIOESMAC since 2014) has ensured more stable payments to the producers and connected them to international markets where their high-quality cacao can garner a higher price. The additional income has provided capital resources for additional development. For instance, a group of women from ADIOESMAC are now making chocolate from the cacao they produce to sell locally, increasing their income.
Cacao Verapaz provides an enormous amount of support. In 2017, they gave 3 workshop trainings on fermentation and drying to the farmers at ADIOESMAC; in 2018 Cacao Verapaz conducted three more in-depth trainings on sensorial and physical assessment, including sensory evaluation of liquor. 40 farmers total participated in these trainings, including 15 women and 25 men. In 2017, Cacao Verapaz hired a quality manager within the Association to oversee agricultural practices, fermentation, and drying processes to ensure consistent quality and accurate traceability for the cacao. Cacao Verapaz also provides additional support such as working capital so that ADIOESMAC can pay farmers on time for their wet cacao deliveries, and cacao sacks and grain pro bags for storage to ensure the cacao is not damaged.
FUNDASISTEMAS is another local group that has worked with ADIOESMAC to develop a cacao nursery close to the fermentary. Ten varieties were selected for replication based on their high productivity and resistance to disease. This nursery will allow farmers to propagate these cultivars and Cacao Verapaz will work with ADIOESMAC to assist with quality and flavor assessment. While farmers have access to productive cultivars, planting can be a challenge as the farmers typically only have about 1 hectare of often steeply-sloped land.
Dandelion Chocolate has consistently purchased from ADIOESMAC since 2014 and the commitment of the Association and Cacao Verapaz to high-quality cacao is evident. Dandelion was ADIOESMAC’s first international market partner and is proud to have played a key role in growing the cacao industry in this historically important and underserved region.