Region: Cibao, Duarte Province
Country: Dominican Republic
Source Type: Fermentary
Beans: Purchases (wet) from 165+ producers
Fermentation style: centralized, 4-tier box system
Tasting Notes: roasted peanuts, honey, and subtle cherry
These beans come from a fermentary, Öko-Caribe, near the city of San Francisco de Macoris in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic. Öko-Caribe buys wet beans from a wide variety of farmers, and employs a slightly longer fermentation process than is typical, graduating beans through a series of four boxes over a period of six days. Fermentation is a precise process which requires injecting oxygen into the bean piles by turning them at critical points in order to catalyze the activity of certain bacteria at a certain time. The folks at Öko-Caribe take particular care in their methods, and process both organic and conventional beans using two separate fermentation sets.
When fermentation is complete, the fermentary uses a two-stage drying method, beginning the beans on a mesh screen to maximize airflow, and finishing them on a hotter, concrete surface that helps burn off the moisture until it’s between 7% and 9%.
Until recently, drying under the sun was standard practice in the Dominican Republic. The rainy season gave over to a reliable cluster of dry months that made drying outside easy. Over the last few years, the climate has started to change, bringing short bouts of rain that interrupt the dry season and force producers to use fire as a drying solution. In these cases, the beans can take up a smokey flavor from the burning wood. Drying by fire is still a rare and desperate measure, but increasingly necessary.
Öko-Caribe only began exporting to the United States about three years ago, prior to that it had sold primarily to Japan and Europe. The operation currently exports about 200 metric tonnes a year. A large percentage of Dominican cacao comes from the Cibao region, but the folks at Öko-Caribe are particularly technical and careful in their approach. Our Chocolate Sourcerer, Greg, recently visited the fermentary and is working with Charles Kershner and Öko-Caribe to develop a number of experiments that we will run over a long period of time. In the future, we’re really excited to work with Charles on the Reserva Zorzal project that aims to protect the nesting ground and sanctuary for Bicknell’s Thrush (an endangered species of bird that migrates between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic). Bird sanctuaries typically rely on public funds, but that can be a precarious model. Instead, Charles developed a model to build and protect the reserve using money raised through growing cacao and macadamia nuts.
We’re really excited to build this relationship and support the amazing work that is happening in the Dominican Republic.