Our work relies on partnerships with locals in riverside communities, either through co-operatives or talking directly to families. We have a very close relationship with them. The families, which welcome us with open arms, host us whenever we travel to the Amazon. We eat together, sleep in the beds and hammocks they provide us and live their daily life in the forest. Our goal has always been to contribute, creating opportunities to a new sources of income coming from the forest keeping it standing.
Our aim is to get the best possible cacao beans so we can sell a high-quality chocolate bar, thereby allowing us to pay more for the cacao we buy. It is a virtuous circle in which everyone is aligned with the same goal. We are willing to pay a good amount of cash for a high-quality cacao, but to do so we have to have commitment from the people who are willing to collect, ferment and dry the beans.
We have been in the Amazon looking for wild cacao for some years. Many times, we get information of possible new sources of wild cacao. The real important aspect we look for is the interest that a certain community has in working with cacao. There has to be passion to work with cacao! This is one of the most important factor we look for.
When we first started working in the Amazon, we noticed that few youngsters got involved in the cacao value chain. However, since 2014 more and more young people started getting involved in the activity. They saw it as a real chance of having an income from the cacao fermentation and selling it to companies like ours.
Opportunity for the women
Our father, André, tries to come along with us every time we go to the Amazon. And it is interesting to see how men automatically address themselves to him questioning him about cacao fermentation and drying processes, even though the expert on the subject is Luisa. He always has to reinforce that people should address themselves to her and not to him. This is only one of the signs of how they are used to dealing only with men and of how unusual it is to have a woman as a leader. This is why we have always tried to include women in the cacao activity.
And we have been successful. Although they are left out of so many male-dominated activities that provide income, they are present in the fruit harvesting and breaking processes. Including them in the process has been a huge success.
Meet our partners
ACARÁ RIVER: IOLANDA AND BICO
Iolanda was the pioneer in working with cacao in the Acará river. Having been successful, she decided to involve her family in it, including her husband Francisco, also known as Bico. Together, they are essential to the production of the cacao used in our bestselling chocolate bar.
In 2015, she sold 100 kilograms of cacao to us. This motivated her to increase her production since we liked so much the cacao she produced. For that, she need her family in it. At first Bico did not believe on the business, but he changed his mind when he saw how much she made by selling us the cacao she produced. In 2021, they sold 1.8 tons of cacao to us.
Harvesting and fermentation in the Acará River are made essentially by women with the help of Bico. Iolanda had to open a bank account for the first time ever in her life.
In the Acará River, Bico and his family did not have internet or cellphone signal. But after starting to work with cacao they made the signal reach them and it made our communication much easier!
Now Niely, Bico and Iolanda’s daughter, is able to pay for the college she has always dreamed of. They are pretty confident that, after Niely graduates, they will be able to pay for the older son to go to college with the income coming from the fermented cacao.
CASSIPORÉ RIVER: DORISMAR AND MR. SABÁ
Dorismar is from Vila Velha do Cassiporé, but he lives in Oiapoque, the largest city in the very North of Brazil. He produces his cacao at Vilha Velha . It would be impossible to obtain cacao from this origin without him. He financed the fermentation and drying infrastructure in Vila Velha. He personally supervises and take scare of the collection of the cacao, as well as, its post-harvesting beneficiation at Vila Velha.
Mr. Sabá lives by the river in Vila Velha do Cassiporé. He is Dorismar wingman. He is very respected in the community, and he is one of the oldest people there. He is responsible for the cacao fermentation together with two more people.
Usually, our partners do not have the means and resources to assemble the necessary infrastructure for the cacao fermentation, drying and warehousing. Many times, we provide them with the funds necessary to build this infrastructure. And even when there is infrastructure, we make advances in the capital necessary to buy the fruits needed to the cacao production. There are no signed contracts, no penalties when there is no production, but we look for their commitment. We talk to our partners and listen to them about the obstacles they face to deliver what was agreed on. When there is no production, we adjust the volume for the next harvests. We create a vital source of income to those families and they make our business grow.
TOCANTINS RIVER: MARCIO AND MARIO
These two friends and partners are responsible for our cacao in the Tocantins River, in Mocajuba. The city has a tradition in the cacao harvesting, but they did not use to ferment and dry the cacao. When we first started our partnership in 2019, we made our first controlled fermentation with the beans they used to sell and to our excitement it gave birth to a spectacular chocolate with a citrous flavor like no other we make. Marcio e Mário have a cohesive infrastructure by the Tocantins River and a high production capacity. This is the origin with the most volume of cacao available. And they are ambitious and dedicated. All the inclusion and milk bars are made with this cacao.
JURUÁ RIVER: OSMIR AND AIRES ANDRIOLA, ZÉ DA ICA AND HIS SON MAICON
Osmir and Aires are brothers and are the ones responsible for the fermentation and drying in the community of Novo Horizonte, by the Juruá River. They are the sons of Moacir, whose father arrived there during the rubber cycle to work with natural rubber. Besides working with cacao, they build boats and work in the murmuru collection. We met them in 2017 in the Purus River, when we taught them how to ferment fine cacao, in an exchange program promoted by the NGO SOS Amazon named Valores da Amazon (Values of the Amazon).
Zé da Ica is a fisherman and our newest partner in the Juruá River. He lives in the Rebojo community. Together with his son, Maicon, he is betting on the wild cacao as an important source of income for their families. In 2022, they had the first cacao fermentation in Rebojo, guided by Luisa. We hope that was the first of many more to come!
The Juruá bean receives a very special support from Matt & Yelena Caputo owners of A Priori, the largest bean to bar distributor in the USA, possibly also the world’s biggest. Since we started making chocolate with Juruá beans, Matt & Yelena helped our company and the people in the Novo Horizonte and Rebojo communities.