3 min

Setting the bar for quality chocolate

Ecuador is the planet’s natural cacao seed bank. It counts hundreds of varieties, all with different flavors. Many of them haven’t even been named. Pacari Chocolate wanted to tap into all these flavors and at the same time support local farmers and teach how to grow cacao organically.

When Carlo Barboto and Santiago Peralta started Pacari Chocolate in 2002, they wanted to do more than just create their unique delicious chocolate from Arriba Nacional – the original Ecuadorial cacao bean. They wanted to contribute to building the local economy and teach farmers how to work ecologically.

Tasting the result

Quality was an important ingredient of this goal. ‘We spent the first 5 years understanding beans and farmers before making chocolate,’ commented Peralta. ‘These people have been producing cacao beans for 6 generations and they never understood the result – they had never tried chocolate. Now they understand why they ferment, they dry, they harvest properly, because they taste the result.’

Transition to organic production

Once their educational program was underway, the farmers could follow the correct procedures to grow organic cacao beans. Pacari has been working with Kiwa to certify their farmers in organic production. ‘For organic certification we have to check the whole chain of production,' tells Patricio Ajitimbay of Kiwa in Latin America. 'We need to check the history of the land: there is a transition period of 3 years on the land for organic products, during which certain products cannot be used.’

Checking validity organic claims

In addition to visiting the fields, inspectors check the reports made by the farmers, which details everything they do to the crops. They then triangulate the field and documentation inspections by looking at the bookkeeping system, as Ajitimbay explains: 'Instead of herbicides, organic farmers use people to remove the weeds by hand with a machete. This clearly requires much more time and people. We calculate how many people would have worked on removing weeds, then go to the bookkeeping system to check the payments. We can then see whether the producer’s claim that no herbicides are being used is valid.'

The world is melting for chocolate

The result is a high quality chocolate that has gained international notoriety: Pacari has won gold, silver and bronze in several categories at the International Chocolate Awards. The product is sold around the world, from Ecuador to Korea.