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2018 Trip to Dominican Republic

This past week I was had the opportunity to visit several farms in the Dominican Republic. These farms are supported by Rizek Cacao, one of the companies we use to procure beans in the Dominican Republic. On this day, we toured two quite different farms. Jose’s farm is large and well-structured while Pedro’s is smaller and less planned. Both provide a unique insight into the issues around cacao growing and production. Jose’s farm was about 30 minutes outside the city. The trip was easy as the roads were in very good condition. The farm is about 50 acres with a large staff of production workers. Jose is the owner and acts as the manager of the farm. He has hired hands which perform the farming tasks. I saw men weeding, cutting down pods and placing them in large piles. The pile of pods will be split open the following day so the beans can be transported while still fresh. Jose’s farm is well laid out with the cocoa trees in neat rows and covered with large palms for shade. As the farm is organic and sustainable, there were no chemicals nor plastics visible. Trash bags were placed around the farm…

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Big Island Hawaii 2018 Good Food Award

In June 2017 we visited the Big Island of Hawaii to attend the Big Island Chocolate Festival and met with several cacao farms. Most notably was our visit with Susan of Mauna Kea Cacao and we left off with aging a test batch made with her cacao beans. Well the test batch turned our great and we made the leap to a full batch, about 400 chocolate bars. The 70% dark chocolate is very complex, some tropical fruit but also something like a shortbread cookie. It was a big hit with our employees and customers so we submitted it for the 2018 Good Food Awards. A few months later it was announced our Big Island dark chocolate was a finalist for the Good Food Awards, right about the time we sold out of the chocolate! We quickly placed another order with Mauna Kea Cacao but had to wait a while for enough beans to be harvested. Following is a summary of the sustainability practices at Mauna Kea Cacao, which gives a glimpse into the complexity of cacao farming. Sustainability Practices at Mauna Kea Cacao Growing cacao in a climate well suited to cacao trees is Mauna Kea Cacao’s most important…

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Hawaii’s Big Island Chocolate Festival

In April I had the opportunity to participate in Hawaii’s Big Island Chocolate Festival. Many people do not realize that Hawaii is the only state to grow cacao commercially. Most of the beans grown on the island, stay on the island, being turned into chocolate at a number of small “tree-to-bar” operations. The purpose of the Festival is to introduce the island’s beans to a wider audience. I was invited to make a presentation to local farmers on small scale chocolate making. Most growers do not make their own chocolate. The beans are sold to the few chocolate makers on the island. As the farms grow and look for broader markets, there is a need for the farmers to understand the quality and flavor profiles of their beans. My presentation concentrated on the type of equipment we use in Maverick Chocolate Company’s facility in Cincinnati, especially our test batch equipment. I also acted as one of the judges for both raw beans and finished bars. While there is some great cacao on the island, there is room for improvement. Fermentation rates were inconsistent which produces off flavors. Fermentation is a big challenge for Hawaiian cacao because the evenings become quite…

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2015 Cacao Farm Trip to Peru

This past summer I had the opportunity to visit multiple cacao farms in the Peruvian Amazon basin with a group of 60 chocolate makers from 16 different counties. The trip was organized by USAID to promote Peruvian cacao exports. Maverick Chocolate has used Peruvian beans since the beginning – our Morropon and Tumbes are two of our customers’ favorite flavors.   The trip started in Lima with a tradeshow and exhibition from local growers and chocolatiers. I was able to sample a wide variety of cacao beans and chocolate. The most amusing part was the fashion show with chocolate covered dresses. The business aspects were also beneficial as I met with export companies, more co-operatives, and farmers.      The trip continued in Tingo Maria. We flew from Lima to Pucallpa then by bus to Tingo Maria. The countryside is rugged but lush. This area alternates between mountainous and Amazon River tributaries. We had to swerve around fallen boulders and washed out highways. Landslides are a serious concern and hazard on the highways. Crossing the rivers was done on ferries of old steel hulls strapped together with logs and an outboard motor. We drove onto the logs and away we went.…

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