written by Rowan Jacobsen
Meet Dionisia Garcia Juárez, a Chinantec woman who lives in the town of San Felipe de Léon, tucked deep into a fold of the Chinantla, a vertiginous corner of northeastern Oaxaca. She’s a spry 55, still climbing the steep paths of her farmstead in a traditional huipil, the woven tunic of the peoples of southern Mexico that captures the history and beliefs of her ancestors in embroidered symbols.
The Chinantec people have lived here since forever, and they’ve cultivated cacao approximately that long. They self-governed for centuries until the Aztecs rolled into town around 1455, happily allied with the Spaniards in the 1520s to boot their oppressors, and then of course wound up rebelling against the Spanish a decade later.
The valleys and slopes of the Chinantla are so steep that the Chinantec developed a unique language that includes a variety of sharp whistles that can be used to convey complex information from one ridge to another. The language has been studied extensively by anthropologists, and there are still about 100,000 Chinantec speakers, but it’s mostly just the old people these days who know how to make and interpret the whistles. The kids use cell phones.
San Felipe de Léon has just enough altitude to exist in that rare band where both coffee and cacao can thrive. Any lower and its too hot for good coffee; any higher is too cool for cacao. The people of San Felipe de Léon grow both in a delicate dance. The coffee is new, but the cacao is a constant. “When I was a kid,” says Dionisia, “these mountains were covered in cacao. We just treated it like any other fruit.” They used it in their drinks, especially atole and pozol, and sold anything extra to coyotes—middlemen who are like traveling pawn shops, rolling into town with a truck and a roll of cash and buying anything farmers are desperate to sell at extremely low prices. Coyotes are always a last resort, but if you’re a farmer without the means to haul your cacao to a distant city where you might get a better price, they can be better than nothing.
But to earn the higher price paid by both domestic and international bean-to-bar customers, good fermentation is essential, and that’s the next step. Alejandro Zamorano, HCP’s lead on this project, is kick-starting the first fermentation fenter in San Felipe De Leon, with support from HCP. Soon quality Chinantla cacao will be finding its way into craft chocolate for the first time.
Alejandro surveyed the trees with barely contained fervor. “Look at the pale color of the new leaves!” he shouted, snapping photos. “You can tell it’s white-beaned.” The genetic mutation that drained the color from Criollo beans did the same to its leaves. These trees were the real deal, a living chunk of Oaxacan history.
And there was another important piece of Oaxacan history and culture growing all over those hillsides, mixed in with the cacao and coffee: pataxte, aka Theobroma bicolor, or white cacao. Pataxte is cacao’s less flashy sibling, and it has always played a supporting role in Oaxaca’s traditional beverage culture. Its white beans have less fat than cacao, a milder taste, and they are exceptionally good at producing a froth
Now pataxte is having a moment. Next-gen Oaxacan eateries are featuring it more prominently. Leading the way is Olga Cabrera’s remarkable Tierra del Sol, which uses it in a sublime white mole, as well as in a veriety of mixed-cacao drinks and pastries.
A trickle of pataxte is even making its way to the wider world through exporters like Alejandro, who pays Dionisia $16 a kilo for all the pataxte she can get her hands on. (He buys her cacao and coffee, too.) That makes it more expensive than virtually any cacao in the world, but it’s necessary to cover the meager yields and difficulty separating the beans from the pods. Alejandro had never seen a whole hillside of his newest obsession before, and he gaxed around in astonishment. Most of the pataxte in the world is coming from this one valley.
Dionisia handed us small white disks of pure pataxte chocolate to try, containing nothing but pataxte and sugar. It was rich, creamy, mild, and nutty, like peanut-butter fudge. It didn’t taste remotely like chocolate, but we could immediately comprehend why people have been mixing the two together for centuries. They are natural partners. Dionisia likes to mix 1/4 pataxte into her drinking chocolate, along with sugar and a touch of cinnamon.
by Rowan Jacobsen
Photos © Alyssa D'Adamo of the HCP
We’ve been thinking a lot about foam these past couple of days in Oaxaca. That, of course, puts us firmly in line with a practice that goes back millennia in Mesoamerica. Long before the Viennese began ladling whipped cream onto their “Kapuziner” coffees (1700s) or the Italians began using their new espresso machines to steam some milk (1900s), Mesoamerican cultures were paying a lot of attention to the foam that topped their chocolate drinks.
They went to great lengths to produce it. They would pour the chocolate from on high, one vessel to another, back and forth, raising a froth that both the Maya and Aztec singled out as the best part of the drink. They even designed vessels with special spouts designed not for pouring but for channeling breath into the drink to give it a foamy head. (Hat tip to Rich Tango-Lowy for that insight.)
This has always seemed charming, but maybe just a little bit…bourgie? One minute, you’re smashing your neighbors’ skulls with obsidian-edged warclubs, and the next you’re working on your barista skills? But of course, there was way more to it than that, and we’ve been getting some insights into that here in Oaxaca—insights that help to shine a light onto heirloom cacao’s outsized importance.
Oaxaca is definitely the place to think about this stuff. When it comes to foamy drinks, the place makes Rome look downright…flat. In every marketplace, you find women making the traditional drinks of their regions. Many include chocolate, and most of them come topped with a big cloud.
You find these drinks in every town of Oaxaca, says Shava Cueva, the creator of Beverages of Oaxaca, a photographic odyssey documenting these drinks and the women who make them. The recipes change from town to town, family to family, as they are passed down through the generations. Some are only made on special occasions—weddings, festivals, funerals. Some are only made once a year and involve wild ingredients that are really hard to find. All are hard to prepare. And that turns out to be important.
The perfect example of this is the chocolate atole made by Carina Santiago, a Zapotec women who lives in Teotitlán del Valle, a town in the countryside outside Oaxaca City that’s famous for its weaving. Carina’s drink requires many ingredients and takes two hours to make. It’s a variation on others in Teotitlán, but it’s her own family’s take on chocolate atole. She learned the recipe from her mother, who learned it from her mother, and so on. She frames this in a particular way: “It’s been passed down for generations from women I love.”
To start, Carina toasts cacao, wheat, her neighbor’s yellow maize, and cinnamon on a comal over a fire, one ingredient at a time, stirring with her hand and a straw brush to get just the right amount of toastiness, the smell slowly filling the room. The corners of the corn blacken. A few of them pop off the comal.
Oaxaca is the epicenter of Mexican cacao consumption. The state pounds an extraordinary amount of cacao each day, a river of drinking chocolate and mole negro pouring into the mouths of locals and tourists alike, but almost all of it is low-quality lavado, bulk cacao washed before fermentation. Locals actually prefer the harsh astringency and bitterness to balance the intense sweetness of the drinks, but Carina uses just a touch of honey in her atole and insists on an heirloom Criollo from Chiapas for its buttery richness. It makes her drink costly as well as time-consuming. Special.
By the time the maize comes off the comal, the cacao has cooled enough to peel by hand. We pitch in. Part of the deal is the pitch-in. The peeled cacao is black, shiny, polished like mahogany, completely unlike cacao roasted in an oven.
Baskets of each ingredient are placed around a metate, the curved grinding stones used by women throughout Mesoamerica for thousands of years. Carina has some she inherited from her grandmother. She kneels behind the metate on a woven pad and bears down, grinding each ingredient to powder with her stone roller. It’s all slow, meditative, the toasting and sweeping and grinding, a kind of Zen incantation.
To the toasted ingredients, she adds others like cinnamon, brown sugar, and pataxte (Theobroma bicolor, the real “white cacao”; more on that soon). The pataxte, which looks like white cacao beans, is buried underground for nine months by her daughter-in-law, and watered periodically so it ferments. That’s key to produce white cacao’s special trick: it’s a foaming agent par excellence.
Some ingredients, like cinnamon, grind easy; others, especially the corn, make even Carina break out in a sweat as she bears down on the fat heirloom grains. At a fiesta, says Carina, there will be twenty metates going at once, all the village women leaning in with their ripped forearms.
The cacao goes on the metate last, because, unlike the other ingredients, it doesn’t grind down into powder, but rather a rich paste, to which all the other ingredients are added, and everything is ground some more until you are left with a thick mole of sorts.
This goes into a gourd-shaped pot with hot water, and then the hard work continues. Out comes the molinillo, the stick used to raise the froth. Carina spins it furiously between her palms, back and forth, droplets spattering the sides of the pot, for a good ten minutes, until it looks like cocoa-colored whipped cream.
She pours corn atole into a ceramic bowl and ladles the foam on top until it’s splashing over the sides like a chocolate jacuzzi. She holds it up to us with a smile.
It’s delicious, of course, deep with the roasty notes of the corn and cacao, but that’s almost beside the point. The point is the gift. Here, I made this hard thing for you. “You have to put love into it,” she says. “When you taste it, you taste the flavor, but you also taste the love.”
And the foam is the best part, just like the Maya and Aztecs explained to the Spanish. As we dip our faces into the cloud and lick our frothy mustaches, we savor the creamy chocolate, and the symbolism as well. Carina has poured herself into this offering, elevating it with her effort from a simple drink into an airy offering, a bit of spirit caught in suspension for a brief moment in time. Drink it fast. The bubbles are already popping, the spirit returning to earth. Accept the gift.
Since our visit to Carina, I keep thinking about those old Mayan pots with the blowing spouts, how they captured the maker’s breath in a thousand bubbles, an infusion of air, maybe from someone you love. Of course the foam was the best part.
And of course chocolate was the conduit. Handmade chocolate is always hard, a shapechanger with a knack for capturing the imprints of its maker and passing them along. Here, I made this for you.
Or so it seems, this toasty night in Oaxaca. We’ll learn more as we visit cacao farmers in Tabasco and Chiapas in the coming days and learn a bit more about their lives. Abrazos from the road.
by Rowan Jacobsen
Images by Alyssa D'Adamo of the HCP
Hello, heirloom cacao lovers! Greetings from Mexico City. HCP is here with Alejandro Zamorano Escriche, the founder of Revival Cacao, in search of lost, overlooked, underappreciated, or simply impossible-to-get-your-hands-on cacao varietals that might make good candidates for future heirloom designation. It’s part of HCP’s mission to Discover, Identify, and Preserve new heirloom cacaos. While the Identify and Preserve pieces of the mission have been happening for years, everything is finally in place to proactively Discover heirloom cacaos not yet on anyone’s radar and work with the producers to usher them into the world of fine cacao, and we couldn’t be more excited. First up, Mexico and Guatemala!
Photo © Alyssa D'Adamo of the HCP
Why start here? Well, in a sense, it all started here. Just a stone’s throw away, the Aztec court first introduced the Spanish to chocolate 500 years ago. The Aztecs were getting it all from the Maya and other indigenous groups in what are now Guatemala and the southern Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas. (They even conquered Soconusco specifically to get ahold of its cacao, considered the finest in the world at the time.) Millions of beans were sent to the Aztec capital as tribute each year. The Spanish, of course, took over this protection racket from the Aztecs and expanded it, supplying cacao to the world (still on the backs of indigenous farmers) for centuries.
So the Maya heartlands of southern Mexico and Guatemala had the oldest unbroken cacao traditions in the world, and they never lost them. You’d think this would make the region the epicenter of heirloom cacao. And according to Alejandro, who will be HCP’s pointman for this expedition—it is! In terms of weird and delicious cacaos grown in the middle of nowhere by people who have been at it for centuries, Mexico is the motherlode.
Yet ironically, according to Alejandro, very few of these desirable cacaos ever make it into a chocolate bar or leave the country. Mexico is the drinking-chocolate capital of the universe—another unbroken tradition—and virtually every bean produced domestically is also consumed domestically.
That sounds like a good thing, but all is not well in the world of Mexican cacao. Mexico may be the drinking-chocolate capital of the universe, but that doesn’t make it the cacao-appreciation capital of the universe. The tradition here is to drink your chocolate so sweet that any fine points of flavor are hopelessly lost, so any especially delicious beans (and we are talking about the epicenter of criollo here) go for the same low price as any other beans.
In such an environment, why would these cacaos still exist? Thanks to some combination of inertia, nostalgia, and love, says Alejandro. The old farmers still growing these quirky old varieties have known these trees their whole lives. Sometimes the trees predate the farmers. No, they’re not commercially viable—at least at current prices—but who cares? Neither is your old farmdog, but that’s no reason to get rid of him. He’s part of the family.
Sounds like a job for HCP! And the timing is good. Although Mexico has barely had a culture of bean-to-bar chocolate, and its cacao farmers have had almost no encouragement to maintain their heirloom varieties, things are starting to change. Here in Mexico City, you can sense the first signs of revolution, a nascent culture of chocolate adoration that could awaken this sleeping giant.
Let’s start with Alejandro, who launched his company, Revival Cacao, six years ago to give these cacaos the rapt attention they deserve—to return Mexico to its rightful position at the top of the cacao pyramid. He’s tracked down exceptional beans and farmers across Tabasco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, and he supplies those beans to the rare bean-to-bar maker in Mexico, such as Cuna de Piedra. He’s even begun to export to the United States.
Alejandro feels that many of these farms contain varieties that have everything it takes to achieve heirloom status, and he’s thrilled that HCP is taking a look. He’ll be our pointman in Mexico, collecting samples from dozens of farms, as well as numerous wild areas, and submitting them for heirloom consideration. We’ll be tagging along, so expect to hear much more about that in the coming days.
And along the way, you’ll hear about many other sparks of light in Mexico’s cacao awakening, some of which are flaring up right here in Mexico City. Let’s start with the Museum of Chocolate, aka MuCho. Launched in an elegant century-old building in Mexico’s historic district by architect Ana Rita García-Lascuraín, MuCho holds an extraordinary display of artifacts and dioramas covering both Mexico’s prehistoric and post-Conquest chocolate past, but it’s also remarkably hands-on. Visitors can grind cacao on a metate, as it’s been done for millennia, and they can sample MuCho’s own bean-to-bar chocolate, handmade on site using fine-flavor cacao from Mexican producers. Every day, hundreds of people walk out of MuCho’s doors with a new understanding of the heights Mexican chocolate once had—and could have again.
And for an even better sense of that future, meet the young couple making it happen just a few blocks away at La Rifa, Mexico City’s best chocolateria. Mónica Lozano and Daniel Reza have devoted themselves to working directly with small-scale cacao farmers in Tabasco and Chiapas, sourcing multiple varieties of criollo—including several different white cacaos—and turning them into half a dozen single-variety bars. They’ll even make you a super-frothy, 100% unsweetened, incredibly powerful drinking chocolate— possibly a first in Mexico City!
But as encouraging as these examples are, they are few and far between. These cacaos and regions are still virtually unknown to the greater chocolate world. So there’s work to be done. Something very special—something that couldn’t be more fundamental to chocolate’s history and identity—still exists in the famed regions of Chontalpa and Soconusco, but how much longer it can survive without outside help is anyone’s guess. The farmers certainly aren’t getting any younger. As Alejandro says, “It’s now or never.”
So here we go. We’re headed to Oaxaca City, the heart of Mexico’s cacao traditions, both ancient and contemporary, to get a grounding in those traditions. What do they mean to Mexican culture, what role do they have in contemporary Oaxacan life, and what can HCP do to help support that cacao culture and allow it to flourish in the modern world? After that, some hellacious roads and the deep jungle await. Wish us luck, and please follow along!
The HCP Board of Administrators and team members recently gathered at the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) to strategize ways to better service our designees. Having the opportunity to meet in person, analyze our mission, and explore the ways we can effectively implement it into every piece of what we do was paramount to be able to practice what we preach. Our mission remains that to: “discover, identify and preserve fine flavor Heirloom cacao varieties for the conservation of biological diversity and the empowerment of farming communities.” and we are elated to share the many ways we will be moving forward as an organization.
The scenarios we ran through during our discussions were realized at Maya Mountain Cacao where we were welcomed by the team.
Maya mountain cacao is a collective of over 480 certified organic cacao farmers. They have implemented a support program for farmers who with to obtain organic status to guide them through their transition. During harvest season, Maya Mountain goes to villages as far as 60 km * to buy cacao from small-scale farmers. The beans are brought back to their facilities and processing begins immediately. The HCP was provided with a thorough explanation of their growing, fermenting, drying and export process. Maya Mountain primary buyer is Uncommon Cacao, which distributes the beans across the USA and Europe. Last year, they exported 100 metric tons of cacao, 6 of which were exported locally.
Maya Mountain’s mission is very closely aligned with that of the HCP.
“Since Maya Mountain’s inception, we have always maintained and kept true to our mission
to support the livelihood of small farmers. We also seek to support women farmers.
We currently have 44 female cacao farmers. The number is increasing.”
- Serapio Chun, Cacao Operations Officer,
Maya Mountain Cacao
In 2014, Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) was designated Heirloom by the HCP. In 2018, HCP supported a nursery program at MMC funded by a grant through Penn State University. A clonal plot of 240 trees was planted, and this year they will be harvested for the first time. The plot sits proudly on a hill not far from the Guatemalan border overlooking the grand landscape of the Mayan Mountain Range. The trees are flourishing with colorful fruits of all different phenotypes. Through the site visit, it became clear that there are many maintenance challenges involved with the nursery. Visiting the farm and hearing the challenges first hand only enhances our drive to carry out our mission. We understand that we still have a lot of work to do. We’re taking active steps to integrate new systems and adapt old ones that will facilitate relationships across the value chain, create educational resources for farmers and retailers, and enhance the relationship between the farmers and our organization.
Caputo's Market and Deli located in SLC, UT, is a specialty food market and deli, focused on protecting and preserving the food traditions of the world's collective ancestors. The Caputo's are the largest supporter of the HCP, donating the proceeds of their annual Chocolate Fest since 2013.
Caputo’s Market and Luisa Abram Chocolate are launching a collaborative chocolate bar using a unique strain of unfarmed cacao (not found anywhere else in the world) from Brazil’s Jurua region in the upper Amazonian jungle, paid for pre-harvest by Caputo’s. The prepayment investment provides the foragers with the means necessary to harvest and process the wild cacao, build their own fermentary, and allows Luisa Abram to transform the cacao into chocolate. The entire US allocation of wild Jurua beans will be branded as the Caputo’s Wild Jurua 70% bar, and will be the only way US consumers can experience this exceptionally rare cacao. The companies are also planning “Amazon Camp,” an opportunity for Caputo’s crew members to visit the areas in Brazil in which cacao is harvested and see for themselves the challenges involved.
Biodiversity, craftsmanship, and sustainability suffer when large scale chocolate makers take the lead. The effects of Covid 19 have only exacerbated the problem; during the beginning of the pandemic Luisa Abram's father Andre told Matt Caputo that his favorite bar, Jurua 70%, would be permanently discontinued. This bar was made with a genetic strain of wild cacao that only grows along the banks of the Jurua River in Brazil's Upper Amazon. He explained the mounting challenges and financial burden of foraging for and processing this incredibly unique cacao (in the world's most remote jungle) made it impossible to continue.
Matt states: “As Andre explained their challenges, I...realized that any hope of making this wild crop economically viable may take a decade of investment. I knew their company was facing pandemic induced financial challenges and could not shoulder the burden.This is when I knew that despite our own pandemic emergencies, Caputo's could solve this. If we throw out any expectation of profit on this chocolate bar in the near future, we could prepay for the next harvest. Luisa and Caputo's together could make sure the small community in the Jurua had the money and guidance to set up their own fermentary and continue to return to Jurua to harvest this incredible cacao, year after year.” With Caputo’s guaranteed support, Luisa can purchase all of the Jurua cacao the foragers can procure.
The Caputo’s Wild Jurua 70% bar isn’t about seeing a worthy investment return in this generation; it is about ensuring this crown jewel of cacao from the Amazon is protected for future generations. This isn’t the first time Caputo’s has stepped up to invest in an artisan in need; Mesa Farm, a cheesemaker in Southern Utah, credits Caputo’s for their survival through the company’s determined efforts to brand, sell, and support the craftsmanship demonstrated by Mesa Farm. With success stories such as Mesa Farm, one can only assume the new Wild Jurua bar will be around for years to come; and with it, the wild cacao from which it is crafted and the foragers whose livelihood depends on it.
Learn more about the bar and the Caputo's Preservation Program (CPP) on their blog post here.
By Jody Hayden, Grocers Daughter
One of the things I enjoy most at Grocer's Daughter Chocolate is sharing the story of cacao and chocolate with our customers. Even though many of us have enjoyed chocolate in some form or another since childhood, many don't know that it is derived from cacao, a pod-shaped tropical fruit bursting with sweet, tart flavor.
Just like most agricultural products, the flavors we experience in cacao and the resulting chocolate can vary widely depending on genetics of the cacao, the microbiome of the fermentation area, and the amount of sunlight and rainfall each tree receives.
These days we're experiencing an exciting renaissance in cacao and chocolate that conjures the days of the Mayans and other Mesoamericans who had very sophisticated preferences and preparations of cacao, mostly in the form of foamed beverages. Like these ancient gourmands, chocolate lovers are once again beginning to appreciate (and seek out) cacao and chocolate that celebrates the nuanced flavors of this incredibly complex food.
To continue reading head to Grocer's Daughters website here.
DAVAO CITY—There’s no better road to Philippine glory, at least in making the global royalty food—chocolate, that is—than to start it all in the farm.
This is the gem held dear by the caretaker-owner of the Malagos cacao farm, just at the back of the equally world-famous Malagos Gardens of cutflowers and orchids.
Chocolate-maker Rex Victor P. Puentespina pointed to good farm practice and crop care as key to excellent cacao beans quality for fine chocolate products. “However good a chef, or chocolate maker…one cannot produce an excellent chocolate if the raw material itself is the problem.”
Global chocolate experts emphasized this to the exhibit team from the Malagos Agri-Ventures Corp., when they were surprised at the “very good and fruity flavor” of Philippine-made Malagos chocolates at the international trade fair in Berlin, Germany, in 2015.
Puentespina said the chocolate connoisseurs in Europe were awed by the taste of the Malagos chocolates, the first of any Philippine chocolates in any global trade fair, and remarked that these have a lot of potential in the world market.
Read the full article on HCP Designee #16 here.
Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City, Philippines
This is the final week of our newsletter series “HCP in Action: Working Through the Pandemic with our Designees”, over the past couple of months, we have heard from a number of HCP Designee sites on how the Covid-19 Pandemic has affected their fine flavor Heirloom cacao farming operations around the world. It has been inspiring to hear the stories of perseverance, overcoming challenges, and new inspirations that have resulted from these trying times.
By purchasing incredible, unique, flavorful chocolate, you can support these farmers and farmer networks. You can find a list of retailers of Heirloom designated chocolate on the HCP website, Buy Heirloom Chocolate page, and support the HCP in continuing to discover new unique, complex, flavorful chocolate to experience, by donating today!
This week we are hearing from Rex Puentespina, Farmer and Chocolate Maker, Malagos Chocolate – owner of Puentespina Farms, HCP Designee #16 .
The Puentespina’s venture into cacao growing started in 2003 when founders, Roberto and Charita Puentespina, leased a cacao farm in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City. A farmer at heart, Charita Puentespina rehabilitated the trees and soon after harvested the cacao pods. She now operates a 24-hectare cacao farm in Malagos and employs in-house farmers (These are farmers whose passion is farming but unfortunately do not have their own lands to till). She also partnered with around 100 neighbor farmers in the area to help promote sustainability in the community.
The Puentespina’s also built a training facility on the farm to teach farmers good cacao growing practices. They provide farm inputs & run an Extension Service to those who need further assistance.
Rex took some time to reflect on how the pandemic is affecting Puentespina farms, its training programs and the Philippines as a whole.
Rex with his mother Charita at the Puentespina Farm in Davao City, Philippines.
Q: How has the Pandemic affected your farm operations and programs?
A: Business has slowed down, but despite the ongoing pandemic the farm still continues to operate. In the coming months, we plan to develop new products for the mass market in order to respond to the decreased interest in luxury food. This will help us avoid difficult choices such as reducing our labor force.
Q: How has the Pandemic impacted the livelihood and Economy in your area?
A: With or without the pandemic, our daily operation continues on our farms albeit following strict social distancing guidelines. We actually started harvesting cacao last month.
Currently, it is the beginning of the low-peak season and we expect it to last another 2 months. The next harvest will be in November up until January 2021, which we call the high-peak season, meaning there is more harvest than what we are able to achieve now. Regardless of the difficulties we are all experiencing, we continue to strive to make our farm productive and continue to implement Good Agricultural Practice (GAP).
Across our different revenue generators at Malagos, farm tourism is definitely the hardest hit. Before the pandemic, our Tree-to-Bar tours were able to give guests first-hand experience of our processes. Tourism accounted for a substantial portion of our business. With that said, it will take a while for this to get back to normal since there are currently no domestic flights.
Q: What new challenges has the pandemic caused your operations?
A: The biggest challenge for us is logistics. At the height of ECQ (Enhance Community Quarantine), we couldn’t move our products from our base in Davao to our different domestic and international partners because there were simply not enough flights that could accommodate our deliveries.
Q: What is the current status of your operation today?
A: The farm is still operating and our chocolate factory will be 50% operational. The usual pod rot and pod borer infestation remains a challenge.
Q: Are you developing new opportunities to adapt to these new challenges?
A: E-commerce is a great way to remedy the reduced amount of sales from our traditional brick-and-mortar retail partners. Before the pandemic, the Malagos team had already capitalized on building a strong website and online store. We plan to boost this further and expand our reach. We also plan to develop products for the mass market to help mitigate what could be the effects of decreased global demand. Some may have apprehensions with this new addition to our product line, but even with mass-market items people can still expect Malagos Chocolate to produce high-quality chocolates that remain faithful to our standards.
I believe that our brand equity and the reputation of Malagos Chocolate that we’ve built through the years, from our markets overseas to the farmers in our locale, will see us through in these difficult times. People can expect us to still deliver high-quality products and to always adhere to fair practices while producing one of the best chocolates in the world, even in times of crisis.
How can you help support Heirloom Designees around the world during these uncertain times? Click the following link to our Buy Heirloom Chocolate page on our website, where you can find a list of retailers selling chocolate made from Heirloom designated cacao beans. With your purchase, you will enjoy extraordinary chocolate and support our Heirloom farmers.