We use organic fairly-traded beans. It is important to us because organic means that the farmers are working in a healthier environment and fairly traded means the farmers are getting more for their product.
Dominican Republic OKO Caribe
OKO Caribe has perfected the art of working with smallholder farmers in the San Francisco de Macoris region of the Dominican Republic. Business owners Gualberto and Adriano consistently deliver this high quality cacao, with deep chocolate and red fruit notes.
Tasting notes: leathery winey with a bit of nuttiness
Farmers in this region live in the area around Laguna Lachuá, a pristine lake in the middle of a national park in the Alta Verapaz department. The Lachuá associations are part of a protection program for the national park reserve – the Laguna Lachuá Reserve. Farmers here are Q'eqchi Maya, who grow cardamom and corn, as well as cacao. Many farmers still live entirely off the grid, in areas without electricity or phone signal. Clonal varieties include a mix of trinitarios, upper Amazon forasteros, and amelonados, with some presence of Nacional. With technical and market support from Cacao Verapaz, the cacao from this region has quickly become renowned in the craft chocolate market. In 2017 Cacao Verapaz is deepening the connection with the three Lachuá smallholder farmers associations by hiring full time staff to monitor and control the fermentation and drying process. This is part of a larger effort to maintain and continue to improve quality and consistency in these lots.
We had the joy of travelling through this region in April 2016 and were humbled by the beauty and dedication of this farming community.
Tasting notes: bright fruit flavour with light acidity and a brown fruit finish.
From the Akesson’s website: In MADAGASCAR, we are certified “Fair for Life” by IMO. The plantation is a single living organism where we try to provide a secure working and social habitat. Food, shelter, health, security, liberty and spiritual activity are what the farm offers.
For example, we converted all our estate to solar energy (GAÏA Alternative Energy) and redistribute half of the electricity to the village nearby where our employees live and supply portable solar panels to the most remote places. We provide land to our employees so they can be self sufficient and grow their own rice for their family. We contribute in building schools and finally, in a country where medical goods are not easily available and where employees easily spend up to half their revenues in medicines, we have organized to collect them in Europe and redistribute them on the plantation. All this is to be added to the best possible retribution and the integration of the whole families to our community.
Tasting notes: red berries, lemon and nuts with a bright acidity
Peru - Pangoa
We have been sourcing this criollo cacao directly from the Pangoa coop in central Peru since we first opened our doors opened in 2012.
A message from the Pangoa Coop:
160+ cocoa producing members are located around the district capital of Pangoa and in the Ene River valley.
Our members belong to native and colonist communities that produce criollo cocoa, applying best technologies with assistance from our specialized technical staff.
We are also working with native Ashaninka associations in the Ene River valley and with the Central Café y Cacao del Peru organization in Lima, with the objective to improve the productivity of our areas.
As an internal policy, the Cooperative promotes the production of Criollo cocoa, making sure that these aromatic beans aren’t replaced by ‘foreign’ seeds or other varietals such as CCN51.
Annual average production lies around 450 kilograms per hectare. Our strategic plan encompasses the elevation of the average production to 700 kilograms per hectare by 2015.
Tasting notes: This fine cacao bean has a delicate aroma (sometimes of banana when it is roasted) with tastings notes that include black olives, red wine and aged balsamic.
Bean-to-bar means that we start with raw cacao beans, we sort, roast, winnow (remove the shells), grind, conche (refine), temper and form them into bars and confections. This process takes about 1 week to do.
Most chocolatiers use chocolate that is made by another company, so they would start from the temper portion of the process listed above.
The craft chocolate industry is fairly small and focuses on craftsmanship, sustainability and transparency.
Onsite Coffee Roasting
We roast coffee weekly onsite in our 15 kg Loring fluid airbed roaster. We sell our coffee beans retail out of the shop and online and we have a wholesale coffee program for a number of cafes, restaurants and offices. This also provides opportunities for weighing out coffee, packaging and delivery.
How we Support Community Inclusion
We are in the heart of the DTES of Vancouver, where homelessness, open drug usage and overdosing are a common everyday sight. We are trained in overdose prevention.
We have a suspended coffee program that our customers can buy a drink ahead of time for community members to partake— a small chalk-board hangs by the counter displaying the number of suspended coffees and drinking chocolates available so that community members don’t need to wait in line if there are none available. We partner with local businesses and other non-profits to put on events, host free dinners, etc. We acknowledge the unceded Coast Salish Peoples territories that our business resides and works on.
We source ingredients from companies that share our common value - to support and build relationships with farmer families. Our partners include:
Our bars are packaged with sugar cane paper, we use biotre compostable coffee packaging, paper straws, and kraft paper boxes/bags for our chocolates.
Spencer-Creo Foundation provides one-on-one support for peer workers and staff members. This support may come in the form of advocacy for: housing, access to medical and/or mental health support, access to legal support, etc.