Hello Seattle! Join us at the 2018 NWCF

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 5.25.56 PM.png

👋👋👋 Seattle! We’re at the @nwchocolate #nwchocolatefestival(Un)Conference, speaking about all things cacao -- from building relationships with importers to learning how to be an ally to farmers & communities globally. We’d love to see you at some of our talks & chat with you in person. Come learn with us at these events!
Thurs. 10:30 AM: Building Relationships with Importers for Cacao Supply
Thurs. 2:00 PM: Sourcing Practices for Craft Chocolate
Thurs. 4:00 PM: Countries in Conflict: How to be an Ally in Cacao & Chocolate
Fri. 4:00 PM: The Future of Craft Chocolate
We hope to see you there!

Join us for a great Bean to Beer Party!

Bean-Poster_Final-Draft.jpg

Your Invited to our Bean-to-beer party

@ Indi Chocolate in Pike Place Market. indi chocolate is located on Western Ave

7 PM

Hosted with love for craft chocolate by Uncommon Cacao, Meridian Cacao, Cacao Services, Atlantic Cocoa, Mabco Trading, Zorzal Cacao, Costa Esmeraldas Caca0

because #fermentationbringsustogether

This event is 21+ and IDs will be checked at the door. Thanks and we hope to see you there!

Betta Belize in this origin!

Belize has just two highways, one running north-south and one running east-west. You can drive for miles any day of the week without passing another vehicle. Nearby El Salvador squeezes a population of over 6 million in essentially the same geographic size as Belize, which has only 380,000 citizens. Belize’s capital city of Belmopan is the smallest in the western hemisphere.


belize-map-vector-1604716.png

But don’t let Belize’s small size fool you. This country’s long and colorful history means it is one of the most diverse in the world. Belize was first part of the ancient Maya Lowlands region occupied by over 7 million people before 1000 AD, then invaded by Scottish pirates and conquered by the British Empire, who brought over indentured servants from (primarily East) India. Belize, known as British Honduras at the time, was then discovered by the sea-faring Garifuna, settled by German Mennonites, and in more recent decades scores of Chinese, North Americans, and Europeans migrated to Belize after it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1981 and became a sovereign nation.

Belize’s cacao history is equally rich and surprisingly complicated for the small volume of cocoa beans that are produced in the country each year (about 150 MT).


Here are the chocolatey highlights:

  • 1960’s: the British Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) planted 300 acres of cacao, the first commercial cocoa planting in Belize since Maya times

  • 1981: ancient Mayan pottery with traces of chocolate was discovered, dating back over 2,600 years.

  • 1982: the Hershey Company planted 750 acres with cocoa in a plan to develop the company’s first world-class technical farm. Hershey imported and ran trials on a wide variety of clones from around the world. They propagated hundreds of thousands of trees for distribution to Maya farmers in southern Belize. Hershey abruptly left Belize in 1993 when cocoa prices dropped and their plantation became much less efficient than buying from the market.

  • 1993: these Maya farmers were discovered by Craig Sams of Green & Black’s chocolate, and became the first-ever certified Fairtrade and organic cocoa imported into the UK. Belize served as the primary origin for Green & Black’s in the chocolate company’s early years.

63efb77bc522adf549cff882944caf19.png
  • 2010: Maya Mountain Cacao was established in Belize by Uncommon Cacao, introducing a key innovation that revolutionized the flavor potential of the local crop: centralized fermentation and drying. Throughout Belize’s cacao history before Maya Mountain Cacao, all farmers were fermenting and drying their beans individually at home, sometimes with drying decks shared between neighbors. There were no chocolate bars outside of Belize made of 100% Belizean cacao until Mast Brothers’ “Moho River” bar launched in 2011, made with Maya Mountain Cacao.

  • 2011: a consortium led by the research institution CIRAD sequenced and analyzed the cocoa genome – using an ancient heirloom Criollo tree discovered in Belize’s Bladen Nature Reserve.

The rich history of Belize’s cacao industry, combined with the country’s stunning limestone karstic landscape and lowland tropical and rainy environment, created the perfect storm of flavor that was waiting to be fine-tuned through centralized post-harvest.

While ancient criollo can still be found deep in the nature reserves of Belize and on small private plots, the vast majority of cacao cultivated by the smallholder Maya farmers of the south are – surprise – Amelonado-dominant hybrids and other Upper Amazon Forastero (Iquitos/Nanay, Paranari, and Ecuadorian Nacional) hybrids. Genetic testing of the beans through support of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative suggest the diversity of clones in Belize likely originates from the CDC and Hershey plantings as well as seeds brought across the border over hundreds of years from Mayan communities in Guatemala.

IMG_6262.JPG

The beans carefully produced by the farmers in Maya Mountain Cacao’s network and fermented by our team in Belize offer consistent, rich flavor notes of honey, pineapple, raisin, tobacco, and fudge. The versatility of this flavor profile allows for deeply satisfying dark milk chocolate, deliciously approachable 100% cacao chocolate, and everything in between. Dandelion Chocolate’s 70% Maya Mountain bar won high honors – again – in the 2018 International Chocolate Awards, winning the judge’s grand prize for the second year in a row.

IMG_6351.JPG

After an intense competitive rush to Belize in the last five years (a whole other story, and worthy fodder for another blogpost) that drove prices up for this low volume, highly desired cacao, prices have reset in 2018 and returned to a more realistic range. We’ve worked hard to educate and communicate with farmers about the importance of selling beans at a stable price that can maintain for years to come as production grows. That said, farmgate prices in Belize are still high compared to global norms, at ~$3,200/MT paid directly to farmers for wet cacao – over $1,000 over the NY futures market as of the date of this blogpost.

Volumes of cacao in Belize are growing and all of the pieces are now in place for the consistency of flavor and pricing for years to come. This bean offers a winning opportunity for makers seeking well-rounded flavor, rarity, and a compelling story for their chocolate. We’re so excited to introduce this bean to new makers, and to re-introduce it to those who have known and loved it in the past. The 2018 harvest is now available from our U.S. warehouse as of this month -- ask us for a sample and be a part of Belize’s rich cacao future!

Join Us for Colombia Chocolate Week!

There are only 5 spots left on our next origin adventure to Colombia, January 20th-27th, 2019. Want to discover a chocolate factory in the white city of Popayan? Take a boat ride to the Arhuacos territory and meet El Mamo Camilo, their spiritual leader? Visit cacao farmers along the border of Ecuador and Colombia in the Tumaco region and end the day on a tropical beach watching the sunset? Email anjuli@uncommoncacao.com to reserve your spot on our next epic trip!

De-commoditizing cacao is the solution!

Cacao House Drying.JPG

The commodity market treats all cacao as equal, regardless of origin, quality, or volume. This is a problem. We think the answer is clear: decommoditize. We reimagine what prices could look like when the market truly values factors like quality, flavor, and costs of production and treat cocoa as a uniquely valuable product in its own right. When we seek stability and partnership for cacao producers and chocolate makers, a new cacao economy becomes possible. We’re learning as we go and invite you to join us by working with our cacao and the amazing farmers who produce our beans. 

This Month’s Values Champion!

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 3.12.12 PM.png

Passion, grit, and courage are at the core of Uncommon Cacao's business. Each month, we celebrate one of our own, as they exemplify these values in the incredible work they do breaking boundaries and transforming the cacao industry around the world! This month, we're excited to spotlight our very own Sales Director, Anjuli Dharna Whether hugging cacao trees, talking shop with makers, or meeting famers, Anjuli lives and breathes chocolate and leans into everything cocoa-related with a solid "hell yes!".
We're lucky to have you on our team! 

Coco Caravan's Kickstarter!

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 8.59.58 AM.png

We take supporting our customers' growth seriously. Without our dedicated chocolate makers and growing the craft chocolate market, we would not be able to drive and scale our mission of improving farmer livelihoods. So, we wanted to feature @cococaravan today as they reach their kickstarter goal to expand their chocolate studio in the UK! Please support them if you can, and definitely snag a bar of their chocolate at your next opportunity! Link to their campaign here: http://ow.ly/DYt530m4nuE

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 9.09.51 AM.png

Farmer Interview-El Mamo of the Arhuacos

farmer-appreciation.jpg

(Two farmers in the Arhuacos community wearing traditional clothing. Photo courtesy of Cacao de Colombia)

Transparency in our supply chain means that we prioritize meeting cacao producers and learning from our farmers at origin. They are the backbone of the work we do. We are constantly tasting beans from around the globe and talking to new producers to bring you delicious cacao.

This year we brought in a new origin from Cacao de Colombia grown by the Arhuaco, one of four indigenous tribes who protect the stunning wilderness of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Northern Colombia. The Arhuacos tribe have an immense respect for the environment epitomized in their directive to be stewards of the earth. We have learned from the Arhuacos how one can grow cacao and protect the earth in the most challenging and diverse environments. The Arhuacos cacao farms stretch from high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains all the way down to the Caribbean Sea.

DSC_3452.jpg

Farmer Interview

Meet El Mamo Camilo
The Mamo is the spiritual leader of the Arhuacos. He is a serene man of few words. We were lucky to spend some time with him when our Director of Global Ops & Sourcing, Stasi Baranoff, interviewed him to learn more about the history of the Arhuacos.

DSC_3467.jpg

El Mamo recognized that cacao naturally encourages forest growth in the jungle, and El Mamo Camilo's community are the first Arhuaco community to start growing native cacao again after hundreds of years of colonization.

El Mamo remembers a time when the forest was being damaged by marijuana and cocaine farms. He recalled how these farms changed the feel of the land and the people living in the forest. Now that these farms have been replaced with native cacao, he believes the environment and the people are improving again.

He is happy that his community has access to the sea and that the forest is growing back. Cacao is a critical part of this shift – instead of marijuana and cocaine, cacao can grow with the forest instead of damaging it.

To the Arhuacos, everything must exist in balance with nature. They grow delicious cacao with flavor notes of walnut, lavender and white grape through their deep respect of local flora and their ecosystem. 

DSC_3488.jpg

(The Arhuacos “Kankuras” are considered temples)

El Mamo Camilo doesn't typically meet with strangers - it's very special that he was willing to meet with Carlos from Cacao de Colombia and Stasi from the Uncommon Cacao team. It confirms his trust in our partnership as we bring this cacao to our dedicated chocolate makers.

Winners of the 2018 International Chocolate Awards!

At Maya Mountain Cacao & Cacao Verapaz, our origin operations, our teams work tirelessly to bridge geographic, economic and cultural gaps by connecting rural farmers with an international craft chocolate market. Both Maya Mountain and Cacao Verapaz are constantly pushing boundaries to find new cacao sources, improve quality control and export more ultra premium and delicious cacao.


We are proud and honored to announce that between both Maya Mountain Cacao and Cacao Verapaz, in partnership with many hard-working chocolate makers listed below, collectively won 25 awards at the 2018 International Chocolate Awards.

Shout out to these makers for their incredible chocolate making skillz and creative new flavor combinations with these wonderful beans:


-Dick Taylor (Maya Mountain)

-Dandelion (Maya Mountain Belize 2015 & 2016)

-Boho Chocolate (Maya Mountain)
-Cultura Craft Chocolate (Maya Mountain)
-Cacao 70 (Chivite)
-Goodnow Farms  (Chivite)
-Chocolat Encuentro(Chivite)
-Kakau Worship (Chivite)
-French Broad  (Lachuá)
-Sirene(Lachuá)
-Mayer Schokoladen(Lachuá & Maya Mountain Cacao)
-Coco Caravan (Lachuá)
-Fresh Coast Chocolate Co (Maya Mountain)
-Fresco (Polochic)