Hello chocolate lovers,
I’m writing to you from the cacao trail which has led me on a journey to the lush rainforests of Costa Rica.
During the past month I have been lucky enough to spend time with some amazing farmers and chocolate makers as part of a sourcing and research trip.
I arrived in San Jose on an early February afternoon, the rush of hot air a bit of a shock after a winter in hibernation in the UK.
The search for regeneratively farmed cacao...
The first step on the Costa Rican cacao journey was La Iguana, an agroforestry cacao farm and artisan chocolate factory run by Vicki and Jorge. Jorge’s family have been farming the land in Mastatal for the past 60 years. As I drove up the bumpy roads winding their way up the mountains I noticed that the landscape here was a patchwork of cattle farms, mono tree plantations and wild forest. La Iguana is a haven of biodiversity in this area. Jorge explained to me that cacao was previously grown in this area but when the fungus monilia hit Costa Rica in the early ‘90’s cacao production went down to 6% of what it was previously. The cooperative in this area broke apart and farmers had to decide what to grow instead. Many either cut their trees down to make way for cattle farming or sold their land for logging. Jorge’s father kept growing cacao and what remains today is a thriving, biodiverse farm which produces the finest cacao beans which
are fermented, dried and made into chocolate on the farm. The beans are cracked using a handmade machine made from a jumble of old parts including a washing machine drum. The end result from this beautiful artisan factory is delicious, rich and creamy chocolate.
I left La Iguana inspired and thinking about cacao, when grown in harmony with nature, can be used to protect and support a biodiverse, thriving ecosystem providing farmers with an abundance of crops from a variety of trees and plants.
Cacao farming can promote biodiversity...
My reflections on the benefits of growing cacao were encouraged even more that evening after arriving at Macaw Lodge. In the next region over from La Iguana tucked in between two National Parks lies Macaw, an eco lodge surrounded by beautiful gardens rich with endangered species of plants, flowers and trees.
The owner, Pablo Gordienko is a very cool and wise earth protector. Here, Pablo has been growing cacao to create biological corridors to link national parks. Recognising that in Costa Rica, the national parks are like islands, Pablo created tree lined corridors to allow animals to freely roam. Similarly to La Iguana, the beans are processed into delicious, award winning chocolate on site in a small factory.
The farmers I have met here over the past month have affirmed my understanding that cacao, when grown in harmony with nature, can be an integral tree to creating and protecting a biodiverse ecosystem. It can grow alongside a variety of other fruit trees, vegetables, spices and roots to create a farm which is financially resilient, providing farmers with a regular and stable income from a diverse mix of crops.
Exciting news for cacao lovers...
As we develop and grow the Natural State offering this year the intention is to support these custodians of the land. Each new line of cacao goodness will be directly and deliciously nourishing people and planet.
Me and our little team are very excited to share these new offerings with you in the coming months so stay tuned for more tales from the cacao trail and updates of Natural State launches.
Peace and cacao,