Goals become projects, and projects take time. As we all have likely learned, sometimes projects take longer than expected.
As a company, it has been a goal from the start in 2009 to create delicious and certified organic chocolate, but as we learned, that process is not as easy as it might seem. We quickly achieved the goal of making a delicious product, but the process of earning certifications came as a difficult surprise. From the farmer and bean processing locations in Mindo, Ecuador, to our lovely little kitchen in Michigan, each spot needed its own certification, and it all has to begin with the cocoa farmer. While our products have technically always been “organic” in terms of practice, not every stage of the process has been certified.
Here’s some backstory...
We work closely with our cocoa farmers in Mindo, Ecuador. Not only is our process considered “direct-trade”, but we know them personally, and they’re family friends. We visit their farms as often as we can, and are as involved as is realistically possible. The reality of the farming industry in Ecuador is that most chemical pesticides and herbicides are unreasonably expensive, and most farmers with a small operation practice organically regardless. Simply put, many choose to pursue an organic practice and work towards certification, rather than using that potential budget towards pesticides.
In the past, we have tried other larger farms who were already organic certified, but we are dedicated to only using one variety of cocoa bean, the Heirloom Nacional, because we love the taste, history, and ethics of preserving more delicious varieties of cocoa. In attempting to negotiate with larger farms, Nacional beans were not always available, and at the end of the day we preferred the smaller farm for a number of reasons. We’re incredibly proud to have this relationship with them, and that they’ve achieved their long-term goal of becoming certified organic!
In 2015 we purchased half of a small factory in Quito, Ecuador, where we quickly earned our organic certification. There, we currently make several bars which we call our “Country of Origin”, our 87%, 77%, and our 100%, as well as several variants of flavors.
As we begin to convert all of our bars to being certified organic, we are proud to be launching our deliciously dark 90% Country of Origin chocolate, and we are very happy to announce that this bar will be on U.S. shelves in the next couple of months.
It’s great to learn about chocolate makers in Mindo, Ecuador. Mindo was a big farm (San Vicente), which originally belonged to my grandparents Juanita Thomas and Cesar Garzon. When they passed the farm was divided and left to their eight children. My grandparents gave the land to start the town which was started by the farmworkers who went there from Colombia, Loja and other places in Ecuador. Some of my uncles sold their properties to get closer to Quito. Other farms were left to their children. Some of them sold their properties and others continue to live there.
I always complained about Ecuador not making chocolates and instead export the cocoa beans to European countries like Belgium to manufacture the delicious chocolates. Finally, there is a chocolate industry not only in Ecuador but to make it even better it’s located in Mindo. I wish you lots of luck with this new industry in Mindo. My family and I will be looking forward to finding the bars on U.S. shelves soon.