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Beyond Fairtrade: Forever Cacao

Forever Cacao Ashaninka

Tuesday night was our monthly tasting evening at the Winemakers Club in Farringdon. This month we were lucky enough to be joined by Pablo Spaull of Forever Cacao. Pablo and Cocoa Runners co-founder Spencer went head to head, each presenting some of their favourite bars (including Pablo’s own). Pablo also told us a little about how he first go into chocolate and how he sources his Peruvian beans. Continuing with our series on Fairtrade Fortnight, we wanted to share this incredible story with you!

Pablo’s journey began thanks to his friend and fellow Welshman Dilwyn Jenkins. Dilwyn was a lifelong champion of Peru’s indigenous peoples. While  studying anthropology at Cambridge he and fellow students BBC/Royal Geographical Society and made a documentary about the peoples he had met during his travels in Peru. It was the first time the Ashaninka community had been filmed. In 1985 Dilwyn also wrote the first Rough Guide to Peru, the first comprehensive English travel guide to the country.

The Ashaninka people are an indigenous people who live in the rainforests of  Peru (with a few groups over the border in Brazil). The last century has seen them face a number of threats with their lands being systematically reduced and their environment destroyed. Owing to internal conflicts in Peru and interest in natural resources from big business (including loggers, rubber tappers and oil companies) the Ashanika people have found themselves displaced, enslaved  and even killed. In the early 2000s they were given legal rights to some of their ancestral lands which is now a protected National Park. But these people who the Spanish conquistadors remarked upon for their ‘bravery and independence’ still face a huge number of threats. These threats include (both directly or indirectly) those posed by oil companies, drug traffickers, illegal lumberers, illegal roads, misinformed conservation groups, missionary groups, and diseases brought by outsiders.

AshaninkaDilwyn dedicated decades to supporting the Ashaninka people and helping them to combat the numerous threats they faced. He founded Ecotribal, to help the local people generate a sustainable income through coffee and other goods. One of these product was cacao. When Dilwyn first visited, the Ashaninka had just started to produce cacao as a cash crop. Some of these trees had been introduced from neighbouring regions but cacao also grow wild in the forest. This wild cacao is called the abuelos (grandfathers). No pesticides or chemical fertilisers are used by the growers and they all follow organic farming practices.

Working with Tinkareni and Coveja villages, Ecotribal has helped the Ashaninka people with the fermentation and post-harvest processing of the beans. They have provided training and equipment to local people to improve the how the beans are treated and therefore their overall quality. The Ashaninka have now formed their own Cacao Growers Association, taking charge of the growing, drying and fermenting themselves.

The Ashaninka producer’s association then sells the organic heirloom beans at a good price to Ecotribal and a cooperative downriver who test and sort the beans and continue the post-harvest process. The association separates a percentage of its income to pay for community health and emergency needs. Generating income from these sustainable sources sustains the people from the local villages such as the Cutivireni and protects their forest. Without this they would be forced to sell their trees to logging companies in order to survive.

It’s from this cooperative and Ecotribal itself that Pablo directly sources the beans for his Forever Cacao chocolate bars. Pablo not only pays a higher price for the beans but he knows that this money is going directly to the harvest and their families. He has a direct relationship with the people harvesting and processing them, visiting them and sending them chocolate made from their beans!

For Pablo, making chocolate was never just about creating delicious-tasting bars (although this was still fundamental). It’s also about supporting the Ashaninka people, the biodiversity of the Ene River region and safeguarding Ashaninka heirloom cacao. Thanks Dilwyn’s lifetime of work with the Peruvian people (which is now continued by Ecotribal and their partners Size of Wales & Cool Earth a huge amount habitat has been protected. They have seen forty-four indigenous communities galvanised into shielding 2.5 million acres of pristine rainforest safeguarding ancient Cacao and other crops they rely on.

Pablo is currently speaking to other Ashaninka groups and hoping to help more villages to generate income through the sustainable production of cacao.

Photographs by Alicia Fox, courtesy of Forever Cacao.




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Beyond Fairtrade: Fruition Chocolate

Fruition farm

Fruition is an American bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in the Catskill Mountains of Woodstock, NY. Founder Bryan Graham sources the cocoa for his bars from farms in several countries all of which are Fairtrade and Organic.

Bryan trades directly with the farmers in these countries, giving them much higher prices for their best beans. Paying them more and going direct is not only better for the farmers. Bryan I thus able to get the highest quality beans and have more visibility on how they are treated. With the high quality cocoa beans, lovingly cared for by the growers, Bryan is able to make his award-winningly delicious chocolate!

One of the origins Bryan uses the most is Peru. He uses these Peruvian beans in his dark milk, Maranon Dark, Dark Chocolate, and 100%. Traveling to Peru and visiting the regions where their cocoa beans are grown, Bryan Graham and his wife Dahlia were both inspired.

Bryan to craft his award-winning chocolate bars. Dahlia had previously spent a year teaching Peru and after their trip decided to set up her own educational foundation. The charity is based in the Saylla in the Peruvian Andes.

Here the Corazón de Dahlia development centre provides education and support to rural children and families. The social and educational project aims to develop skills and values through various outlets such as social development, cultural awareness, literacy proficiency, and mental health.

The organisation weeks to improve the quality of life for children, families, and the society at large by offering tangible alternatives in order to advance their education through training, guidance, counselling, and support.

Through its Center for the Promotion of Child & Family Development, it runs a number of different schemes including English lessons, field trips and cooking lessons. Activities such as their arts & crafts, dance lessons and even their robotics programming project give the children the opportunity to engage in rewarding and fun educational projects beyond the classroom. The organisation also runs a library that local students can use. Find our more about Corazón de Dahlia by clicking here.

Although the charity itself is separate to Fruition chocolate, Dahlia’s work in Peru was inspired by her and Bryan’s trips visiting farmers in the region. Her project gives back to the communities and people that have given us delicious chocolate.

Fruition’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond chocolate. Their delicious chocolate bars are placed in biodegradable bags and wrapped in paper.  These use soy-based and vegetable-based inks that are better for the environment and easily recycled.


Discover Fruition’s Chocolate

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Beyond Fairtrade: Pacari

Pacari Chocolate

As part of our series for Fairtrade Fortnight we are looking at different bars from makers whose commitment to their farmers and suppliers goes above and beyond Fairtrade.

Pacari RawIts classic Raw 70% bar sums up Pacari’s commitment to socially and environmentally responsible business practices as well as making great chocolate. The bar uses unroasted cacao that has been minimally processed. The focus is on the natural flavours of the cocoa beans. These are sourced from Ecuadorian farmers that Pacari works closely with. Pacari helps to educate the farmers on how to produce the best quality beans and therefore the best tasting chocolate!

Pacari is a family owned bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Ecuador. The company was founded by Santiago Peralta and his wife Carla Barboto in 2002. They wanted to create a business based on socially and environmentally sustainable principles. But more than that, they wanted the company to promote fine flavour Ecuadorian cacao and support farmers and growers.

The couple started by learning about cacao and the steps involved in making a chocolate bar. Ecuador is renowned for its high quality cacao, the ‘Arriba Nacional’ bean. Traditionally this is grown in the upriver basins regions of the Guayas River. The cacao trees in these areas have been growing for hundreds of years. The natural environment and lack of intensive agriculture, means the trees have been able to cross-pollinate freely, increasing the cacao’s diversity and helping disease resistance.

Santiago and Carla sought out the famers and owners of these small plantations. Over time they have established relationships with the people who grow their beans, always going direct to them rather than dealing with middlemen. In doing so they can guarantee that the farmers receive a much higher price for their beans. Farmers are thus better able to support themselves and incentivised for growing the high quality organic cacao that Pacari uses in its bars.

But Pacari’s relationship to its farmers is not just about price. Santiago describes a ‘mutual connection’ between them and the farmers as they work towards a common goal. They help the farmers and their families get the best out of their beans. They educate them on the different staged of the chocolate making process, from growing to harvesting to fermenting and drying. Collectively sharing knowledge is good for everyone: farmers get better yield and Pacari gets better beans and create a solidarity between producer and maker.

PacariSays Santiago Peralta, “Cacao is not just a way to get money. There’s a consciousness that this cacao will be transformed into something yummy called chocolate that will represent the country. They know they carry a responsibility—so this comes out in our chocolate.”

Santiago and Carla also help to provide machinery and drying facilities for farmers who can’t afford it. Santiago realised that many of the farmers were transporting the huge sacks of cocoa beans on their backs, exhausting and hurting themselves in the process. To help he started micro-financing donkeys to the farmer donkeys so his workers knees are spared some of the trials and tribulations of carrying cocoa pods through the jungle.

Pacari is also looking to the future of cacao and trying to get a new generation involved. Says Peralta ” we are working on programs getting new generations in the process of cacao; how can we show young people that the countryside can provide a good living too rather than moving to the city to work with computers.” These initiatives help to preserve the traditional methods of growing cacao and proud Ecuador’s heritage of fine flavour beans.

This tradition is not just a matter of farmer and maker producing great tasting cocoa beans. It’s about creating a product that’s better for the planet and will help to preserve the biodiverse environment where the cacao is grown. Pacari only buy from certified organic farmers not large-scale plantations to help protect the unique and irreplaceable Ecuadorian beans.


Discover Pacari’s Chocolate


Additional material taken from NBC.