Arriving at the Polochic Valley, in southeastern Alta Verapaz, new visitors are greeted with surprising heat. The valley is known for its fantastically hot micro climate – ideal for achieving consistent and high fermentation rates, even for the relatively small volumes of cacao that the farmers here produce, which historically has been used for ceremonial offerings and until 2016 was reserved for home-use in traditional cacao beverages.
Though they are new to the international export of cacao, farmer families in the Polochic Valley are experienced in commercialization of other crops. In 2003, farmers here organized into an association: The Association of Organic Producers for Integrated Development of the Polochic, or APODIP. After founding, they began producing and exporting organic certified coffee to buyers in New Zealand and Europe, and then added honey to their portfolio. In 2016, working closely with Cacao Verapaz (Uncommon Cacao’s Guatemala branch), they quickly picked up the art of collecting, fermenting, drying and sorting cacao. They built a fermentation house with four large cascading wooden boxes, completely surrounding by transparent plastic walls and ceilings. The effect is greenhouse-like and the space maintains consistently high temperatures even through nights when ambient temperatures drop.