Herencia Esmeraldas is the result of a four-year development project funded by the Italian International Cooperation Agency (AICS). AICS made investments into the Esmeraldas region, improving infrastructure and providing training to local farmers. But all through the project the Esmeraldas farmers retained their dream of one day owning their own chocolate brand – and eventually, with the help of AICS and local NGOs, the farmers designed and executed their plan.
They are now an association of 400 families – all partners in the business – who drop off their unprocessed cocoa beans at six different collection centres around the region. The beans are then processed centrally before being turned into chocolate bars. During fermentation and drying, sensors in the batches send real-time information to their systems, allowing them to learn from each batch and adjust their processes to obtain the desired flavours and fragrances.
It’s so exciting to see a farmer-owned craft chocolate maker, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy their bars as much as we did.
We spoke to them a little about their business and their plans moving forward:
What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
We want to be really transparent, and show the world that farming can be sustainable environmentally and to our communities that live off agriculture.
Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
We want to offer purer flavour-rich chocolates with fewer ingredients. There is a complex world of flavour and experiences inside a single cocoa pod that varies from one to the other and there are thousands of trees to try.
What is the story behind your company name?
Most of the farmers’ properties and their knowledge of how to run a cacao farm was passed along the generations from their ancestors. “Herencia” translates to “heritage”, and we want to keep these traditions alive by leaving future generations our rich soils supporting these mythical trees and this biodiverse agroforestry system.
Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging?
Our packaging was created by a local designer called Maria Jose Rodrigues, and what we like the most is that it recreates our colourful and diverse farms which are the essence of our brand.
What is your favourite food?
Esmeraldas is really hot, but we have a technique to stay as cool and fresh as we can during the night. Our secret is to drink a hot cup of chocolate with milk and cinnamon powder before the sunset while the sun is still up. It may not sound like it can help but believe me it is both delicious and effective when trying to beat the heat.
What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
We won the title for the best cocoa pod at the 2019 International Chocolate Awards. We are going for next year’s Gold Chocolate Award and we really hope we get it.