I was the first chocolate maker to visit Chililique but I doubt I will be the last.
This trip gave me valuable insights, i was able to glimpse how the land is being managed & what the eco system is like. Non-plantation style farming like they have in Chililique is incredibly positive for the environment, it means small plots of land are bursting with biodiversity.
I now know who the main people involved are at Chililique and what the social and economical impact of cacao is, it’s positive. The farm gate price is $3.20 per wet kg for the cacao (NY price currently $1.90 for dry cacao). Cacao farming for an export market involves less physical labour and gives a much better premium than fruits, rice or coffee. The people are lovely, and I will try to organise some small chocolate machinery for them and training on my next visit. Their work is at least as important as mine in bringing you a good chocolate.
That is a basic summary of some positive things that this sourcing trip provided. I’ve kept it simple because in a consumer culture we are overwhelmed constantly by marketing.
Perhaps I could have stayed at home and asked the coop to send me some pictures and info, then jazzed it up to look good. I could even just buy a chocolate from Valrhona or Callebaut and rewrite their marketing and make it my own. But where’s the fun in that?!
I’m encouraging you to ask questions. Take the time to understand where your food comes from and make a decision about who you want to support. Seek out chocolatiers & chocolate makers who can give you a lovely product with down to earth authenticity, not pretentious ‘style over substance’ or overly certified vague ethical branding. Be prepared to pay more, but only if it’s really worth it. Understand the difference between couverture and bean to bar.