What is Cacao Verapaz?
Cacao Verapaz connects producers of fine cacao in Guatemala with specialty chocolate makers in the U.S. and Europe, with a focus on positive social and environmental impacts in indigenous communities. Cacao Verapaz is the first specialty cacao exporter to ship containers of high-quality, centrally fermented cacao from Guatemala. We identify and select the best cacao beans from around Guatemala, with a focus on the beautiful jungle region of Alta Verapaz. Cacao Verapaz is a majority-owned subsidiary of Uncommon Cacao, founded in partnership with Lake Champlain Chocolates and Taza Chocolate.
Since our founding in 2014, we have worked to train Q’eqchi’ Maya farmers and farmer associations in post-harvest practices, co-invested in fermentation and drying facilities, and run batch-specific quality control for our origins.
Cacao Verapaz currently partners with six smallholder farmer associations and two private estates to source high quality, centrally-fermented, and high-impact Guatemalan cacaos. We evaluate all cacaos in our Guatemala liquor lab before approving them for export, then we hand sort, package in Grain-Pro + jute bags, and ship in containers to the U.S. and Europe.
Impact of Cacao Verapaz
Guatemala has a rich cultural history of cacao produced by indigenous Maya people. Despite that history, and current production levels of ~2,500 MT, the country had never exported commercial volumes of specialty cacao. In fact, the country wasn’t commercially exporting any meaningful amounts of cacao at all for decades. After a cacao boom in the 1980’s, the country then forgot about its crop as it focused more on coffee, sugar, cardamom, and other exports. Now, cacao is returning to Guatemala with renewed momentum and a strong vision for the future of cacao in Guatemala shared by farmers, communities, the government, NGO’s, local chocolate makers, and more. Cacao Verapaz is proud to be a leading actor in this movement and the key commercialization partner for Guatemala’s cacao farmers.
Before Cacao Verapaz, the baseline for Guatemala family income from cacao is US$267.29 per year. This is based on pre-Cacao Verapaz figures, collected in 2014. The study was done in the Laguna Lachua region but is characteristic of the various areas in Alta Verapaz where we work. We aim to increase farmer income by providing stable, fair, and competitive pricing for their cacao, and assisting them in improving quality and flavor. The majority of Guatemala’s 2,000+ cacao farming families still sell independently to intermediaries (“coyotes”) at a low price who in turn sell to domestic or regional industrial chocolate processors. We believe helping farmers organize into community associations and successfully engage in long-term, high-value international market connections will be a powerful force for economic development in rural Guatemala.