The Journey of Cacao
From Seed to Your Cup
To ensure the highest and most consistent quality of ceremonial grade Cacao production each step must rely on best practices in farming, fermentation, and processing. Cacao growing is an ancient practice that requires intimate knowledge of the plant, its climate and the inter-connected nature of its needs. The story of Cacao starts with the land as it needs to be grown in certain soil and between certain latitudes. The heirloom Criollo Cacao trees are exceedingly rare and characterised by their healing properties and special aromas.
The growing conditions of our Cacao are mandated to adhere to regenerative practices with biodynamic agroforestry systems. The highest quality of Cacao starts on family farms of indigenous communities with 6 primary factors influencing its growth:
Climate & Weather
Adequate ground mulch
Rain & Irrigation
Unique Cultivation Conditions
After the harvest of Cacao pods from the trees, they are split, and Cacao seeds known as beans are separated from the white fleshy, nutritious pulp. The rest of the pulp surrounding the Cacao beans is subject to fermentation by the activity of microorganisms from the environment. Microorganisms make the pulp fall away exposing the seeds. This process in the case of our ancient Criollo variety beans takes up to 5 days. The beans are fermented in the big wooden boxes covered with banana leaves and daily moved to allow proper oxygen circulation and nutrient exchange. Complex chain reactions result in forming the compounds that allow the breakdown of cell walls within the bean allowing the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates within the Cacao.
Fermentation not only mellows the flavour of the Cacao, introducing the characteristic flavour and aroma richness we are familiar with, but also allows certain compounds to form that are key nutrients activation and their proper absorption. The Cacao’s astringency is greatly reduced, and the secondary aromas of its growing habitat are woken up: tropical fruits, notes of flowers and malt. Unfortunately, this crucial part of Cacao processing is nowadays skipped by many farmers, not allowing the Cacao to develop its nutritional profiles and aromas.
When the fermentation process is done, our family farmers use a traditional sun-drying Cacao for about 10-14 days. This slower drying process allows the best preservation of antioxidants in Cacao, making the chemical reactions taking place in the bean more gradual. Using the higher heat drying techniques (heat chambers and artificial driers) results in lowering nutrient content due to unfavourable condensation reactions. Once sun-dried our Cacao is ready for its final stage of production of Cacao nibs ready for consumption: roasting.
Among many ancient Mesoamerican civilizations that have worked with this medicinal plant, Mayas see roasting as the most important part of the process where the essence and spirit of the plant are liberated. This is the process that has a critical impact on the final Cacao properties, and nutrient content that developed during the fermentation, and greatly reduces Cacao bitterness and high astringent flavour. The traditional method of clay griddle low-temperature roasting by wood fire for just enough time for which a great skill and experience of Cacao roasting is crucial gives the best conditions for maintaining nutrient integrity. This process gives Cacao its unique aroma and is believed to be crucial for internal reactions and extracting its essence.
Each part of the process demands great care and knowledge to ensure that Cacao Hunahpú® is of the highest agro-ecological and organic origin following ancestral Mayan ways of its processing, rooting it deep in the values of respect for community traditions and environment.
All the aspects of the unique path and sourcing of our Cacao classify it as a top Ceremonial Grade Cacao.