As a bean-to-bar producer, we're very particular about our cocoa beans. Quality of the beans is obviously paramount, as we'll never be able to make great chocolate from mediocre beans. However, we're also equally as passionate about ensuring that the farmers growing the cocoa beans are getting their fair share.
Bocas del Toro
In this region, cacao is mainly grown on small, family-owned farms. Most farmers in Bocas del Toro don't grow cocoa as a monoculture, it is planted interspersed with other crops like mangoes, citrus and plantains, but also taller trees harvested for timber. This method of cultivation is much better for the environment and also provides farmers with an income stream from multiple sources, reducing their reliance on price fluctuations of a single commodity.
The cacao farmers are members of the COCABO Co-op. COCABO has been operating since 1952. Over 95% of the farmers providing cacao to COCABO are members of the Ngobe tribe. COCABO doesn't just purchase cacao beans from farmers, it also provides various other services that include running a timber mill.
The Solomon Island produce some very exciting cocoa with a surprising diversity of flavour depending on local conditions. We currently source beans from a single estate on Guadalcanal Island, one of the many islands making up the nation of the Solomon Islands.
Agnes Pilopaso and her father Ben run a cocoa farm and provide valuable employment in a country where subsistence farming is still very common.
Photo credit: Samantha Rini / PHAMA