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The Origin of our Cacaos

Our family business Finca Cuyancua is located in Atecozol, Izalco, El Salvador, a municipality of Sonsonate, at an altitude of 400 meters above sea level. We are close to many waterways and a small stream crosses the farm and fills the reservoir that we use for irrigation.

Originally we grew coffee and in the early 2000's JuanRa's father Rafael began to diversify into cacao cultivation and founded a cooperative of cacao growers. He took the initiative to set up a cacao tree nursery and convert the old coffee mill into a modern post-harvest facility where the cacao from all the cacao farmers in the cooperative is fermented and dried to achieve the best possible quality of  beans. Over the years, we have held many seminars on correct agricultural practices at the different stages of cacao cultivation, from planting and grafting to pruning and harvesting.

Aside from helping plant some of the trees that produce these delicious beans, we feel very connected to this farm because of all the wonderful learning experiences we've had here. This is where our first encounter with the magical plant Theobroma cacao took place, and JuanRa has treasured family memories of weekend trips to the finca with his grandparents and father since he was very young. Trinitario Acriollado and Criollo cacao trees, confirmed by DNA testing, now grow under the canopy of the tropical rainforest, along with other plants such as mango, banana, star apple, avocado, orange, tropical flowers, vanilla and cinnamon.

Also interesting is the fact that the region where the farm is located was an indigenous settlement thousands of years ago. Walking or working on the site, one can easily find carved obsidian artefacts and small shards of pottery left by the people who lived here before us.

Sensory analysis of the cacao:

Smell: rum, slightly sweet, with notes of chocolate and caramel.

Flavor profile: Initially intense, dark, earthy flavors evolve into green and floral notes reminiscent of orange blossom and jasmine.

 

Tlaloc Ceremonial Cacao comes from a single estate, Finca Parras Lempa, located at 40 meters above sea level in El Salvador's lush valley of the Lempa River in the municipality of San Vicente. A smaller river called the Acahuapa flows through the farmland, irrigating the cacao, coconut, and plantain crops. We love the subtle flavor of the cacao that grows in this fertile land, laced with life-giving water. That's why we named the cacao Tlaloc, after the god of water worshiped by the Aztecs and Maya.

A team of seven and a supervisor take care of the daily tasks on the farm. After harvesting the cacao, a cross between Trinitario and Acriollado varieties, the cacao is fermented and dried on site to ensure the best possible quality. Benedicto, whose family owns the property, is one of several co-founders of a local  growers' cooperative of which we are a member and with which we have worked since the beginning of our cacao and chocolate projects. It is a pleasure to witness firsthand their hard work over the years and an honor to be the first to popularize and share our dear friend Benedicto's specialty cacao outside of El Salvador with the rest of the world.

Sensory analysis of the cacao:

Aroma: Mild, with notes of citrus fruit, sweet caramel and dates.

Flavor Profile: Initially rich chocolate kick that evolves into earthier flavors with citrus notes. Pronounced nutty aromas and a chocolatey finish.

 

Cacao cultivation at Finca San Fernando only started a few years ago, thanks to the advocacy of VAICACAO co-founder JuanRa. When JuanRa explained to one of the farm owners the environmental and economic benefits of growing cacao trees compared to other crops, the farmer was inspired to join the local cacao cooperative and start growing fine Trinitario Acriollado cacao. He quickly developed the plantation into one of the most consistent producers of fine cacao in El Salvador. A team of six people works on the finca using modern and technologically advanced methods.

San Fernando is located at 670 meters above sea level on the edge of the gently rolling Cordillera del Balsamo mountain range in Ateos, municipality of Sacacoyo, in the department of La Libertad. The cacao trees here grow amidst fragrant mahogany and cedar trees, as well as a native white cedar called the volador. We are proud to be the first exporter of this cacao from El Salvador and to offer it to the world with our Ceremonial Cacao Atehuàn, which we have named after the historic pre-Columbian name of this beautiful region.

Sensory analysis of the cacao:

Nose: Soft notes of sweet vanilla fudge, cream and toffee.

Flavor profile: Quite dark in taste at the beginning, then a strong sweetness. Subtle sweet and sour plum aromas. Bitter finish.

 

We make our Masaya cacao from the delicious beans of the La Campesina cooperative, an organization of cacao smallholders in Nicaragua's central Matagalpa region. More than 400 producers cultivate these nutty cacao beans with well-rounded flavors on a total of 915 hectares in Matiguas, Rio Blanco and Muy Muy. The cooperative takes care of the delicate fermentation and drying processes in different harvesting centers and offers its farmers agricultural support to ensure optimal quality of the beans.

We met some of the then board members at a regional workshop in 2014 and have since become fans of their great work and their delicious organic certified Trinitario cacao.

Sensory analysis of the cacao:

Aroma: Soft, sweet, with subtle notes of bread and fermentation.

Flavor Profile: Initial nutty notes that progress to earthier flavors, with hints of wood and bitter walnut. Some nutty tartness on the finish, with aromas of soft green banana.


The beans for ours Q'eqchi' cacao comes from the depths of the Guatemalan rainforest. FEDECOVERA, an amalgamation of more than 40 cooperatives, which belong to around 31,000 Qʼeqchiʼ and Pocomchi farmers. The association is one of Guatemala's leading reforestation organizations and they are recognised worldwide for their production of organic cardamom. Since 1976 they have set a good example and offered their farmers a way to improve their living conditions, while protecting their culture and ecosystem.

Farming families produce and export diversified crops which range from cacao to coffee, cardamom, pepper, and turmeric, across the Mayan rainforest canopy of northern Guatemala. Their delicious cacaos are certified organic and consist of a blend of criollo and trinitario strains.


aroma and Flavor profile: Ripe cherries, vanilla and cardamom



Nahua is Costa Rica's leading fine flavor single origin cacao provider, with a strong social mission of improving farmer livelihoods and conserving the environment. The organization is B-Corp certified and works directly with local farming families to grow some of the best trinitario hybrid cacaos available. We rely on their diligent work in handling the crucial post-harvest processes, which ensure the very best outcome for these flavorful beans.

Nahua is made up of a network of 430 smallholder cacao farming families, in an area of ​​800 acres across Guatuso and Upala in the northern part of the country, between the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve and the Cordillera de Guanacaste mountain range. This area is named for the region's original inhabitants, an indigenous tribe known as the Maleku, who still reside in the area.

Nahua founder Juan Pablo has been an active pioneer and mentor not only locally in Costa Rica, but also throughout Central America's cacao farming community, by sharing his experience at regional seminars and through ongoing friendly advice. We have expanded our knowledge of agricultural practices thanks to him, and have also benefited from his excellent example of how to create added value to the cacao crops by transforming the magical fruits of the cacao trees into top quality sustainable products.

Flavor profile: Nahua is very balanced, characterized by strong cacao notes, yellow fruits, and warm and full cherry flavors, combined with a subtle hint of grapefruit and full-bodied caramel notes.



Hacienda San Jose del Real de La Carrera is nestled on the mangroves of Jiquilisco Bay in Usulutan Province on El Salvador's southeast Pacific coast, a region known for its rich and fertile soil. The cacao trees here were planted more than half a century ago and had been left unattended for a time due to the civil war and government-enacted land reform. Today, younger generations have made tremendous efforts to save these abandoned plantations.

The area where the cacao is grown is 25 meters above sea level and is surrounded by mango and coconut palms, as well as banana and sugar cane plantations.

We named this cacao Lenca, after a Mesoamerican indigenous people who had a thriving culture for centuries prior to the Spanish invasion, had frequent contact with the Maya and other groups, and survive and thrive to this day.

Aroma and Flavor Profile: Dried fruits, bananas, earthy and nutty notes.