Our Visions and Values
Direct Trade - our personal relationship with the farmers
Have you ever wondered why cocoa and chocolate are so cheap in the supermarket?
Starting with JuanRa’s family plantation, Cuyancùa - El Salvador, one of our objectives is to create positive inputs for growers. Direct trade it is a concept that began with coffee and has been extending into cacao for some years now. It means having a direct commercial relationship with those who produce, buying directly, without having to deal through “intermediaries” or “brokers”. In our case, we ourselves are producers, but we also buy from other producer friends from El Salvador and neighboring countries, establishing direct relationships with those farming land that has been the "cradle" of cacao for millennia.
We talk, chat on whatsapp, laugh, and make precious alliances, we send photos and videos "look, we made chocolate with your cacao and it's very good"; or: “we have just finished installing the new drying nets: what do you think?”. This way of working allows traceability through better communication, it helps establish adequate modern post-harvest systems, producing high cacao quality at prices that naturally exceed market ones.
We buy beans at a price even 2-3 times higher than that of the “Fair-Trade” brands, and this price is directly paid to those who produce. Opting for direct trade is by no means easy, it is expensive, but we are proud of how we work, and we are always looking into ways we can do more.
Basically, our supply chain is made up of ourselves, and friends who we trust.
Truly Sustainable Cacao - our promise to the land.
How can people sell cacao for ceremony, health or personal growth, when the way it is farmed is harming the planet?
Although the plant is a native of Central America and can still be found growing wild in this region, today 70% of the world's cacao beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, where the practices of clear-cutting tropical rain forest and excessive use of pesticides and fungicides are wide-spread. The high demand for cacao and low-prices paid force farmers to take ever higher risks to produce the crop. For example, A 2017 report documented the extent of illegal cacao farming in the national parks and protected forests of the Ivory Coast and its devastating effect on the wildlife populations there, particularly elephants and chimpanzees.
It doesn’t have to be this way! We believe in farming cacao without incurring environmental damage, and even better, we know that good practices can actually support biodiversity and sustain the existence of the plants and animals who live in these environments alongside their human inhabitants.
We have spent the last fifteen years promoting environmentally sustainable farming of cacao in El Salvador. We have built a cooperative that revisit traditional farming methods and apply the latest technological advancements to enable the farmers to produce fine flavor cacao with minimum waste and maximum respect for the environment. We run workshops and have shared our methods across the region, welcoming other farmers into the VAI family.
Our organization is oriented to zero waste in production processes, breaking the conventional business models. We pay close attention to the issue of packaging, in order to generate less environmental impact and we are always looking for new eco-friendly solutions, to offer increasingly sustainable products. In our cacao workshop in Olbia (Sardinia) we are careful to separate waste and dutifully recycled, down to the last detail…
The cacao husks, for example, are used as a natural fertilizer for our grandfather's garden!
Natural, Whole, Superfood - our commitment to nutrition and flavor
Did you know that cacao is one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth?
Unlike cheap chocolate, the organic, minimally processed cacao that we term ‘ceremonial,’ is remarkably beneficial for human health. Even in small quantities it contains high levels of antioxidants (flavonols), minerals (including Iron, Zinc and Magnesium) and vitamins, and it is also rich in proteins and fibre. Research shows that consumption of natural cacao, can lower the risk of heart disease, stress, diabetes and dementia, while strengthening your cognitive capacity, immune system and digestive health. The mood-enhancing qualities of natural cacao, coming from its complex of hormones, neurotransmitters and stimulants, can help us feel both relaxed and energised.
Most chocolate that appears on supermarket shelves contains highly processed cocoa-powder, is packed with milk solids and refined sugars, and padded out with soya lecithin and artificial flavours. In the processes of extracting the fat, roasting at high temperatures and washing the cacao bean with alkaline salt to make commercial cacao powder, between 70% and 90% of the antioxidants are lost. In the form of cheap chocolate, a Superfood is tragically turned into a Junk-food.
We take a different approach and our inspiration comes from the traditional Mesoamerican way to process cacao beans. Firstly, we take particular care with fermentation, to naturally balance bitter notes without having to bleach, conch and temper. Secondly, we lightly roast the beans to bring out flavor without losing its nutritional and mood-enhancing qualities, thirdly we have adopted the artisanal technique of stone grinding cacao beans. Finally, we treat each batch differently considering what processes best highlight the natural aromatic notes of each cacao.
We believe that cacao deserves its place alongside fine wine: each harvest, origin, variety, and post-harvest process results in a subtly different flavor. At VAICACAO we want to introduce you to this world of different aromas.