In talking with cacao producer Ramón García, our Director of Cocoa Sourcing, Jesse Last learns the personal story behind Taza Chocolate’s newest origin partner, El Majagual.
The Nitty Gritty
Most Recent Visit by Taza: April, 2017
Country: Dominican Republic
Number of Farmers: 1
Number of Female Farmers: 0
Numbers of Hectares Certified Organic: 1000
Fermentation Model: Tiered wooden boxes
Average Fermentation Rate: 92%
Drying Model: Solar tunnels
Total Cacao Exported: 1000 MT
Annual volume purchased by Taza: 25.2 metric tons
Average price paid by Taza*: $2,800 per metric ton
Born on a cacao farm, Ramón García Amaro spent years working on the trading and export side of the business. However, he rediscovered his true passion when he returned to his family farm to grow organic, healthy cacao beans alongside fruit and other trees. Despite the vagaries of a changing climate, Ramón cherishes every day on his farm.
JL: You say you were born into cacao, Ramón -
RG: Yes, I was born on my father’s cacao farm in the Dominican Republic. It has been a part of my life since this first day. When I was 12 years old, I moved from my father’s home to that of my uncle in the town of Gaspar Hernández along the country’s northern coast. My uncle’s name was Don Isidro García Mercedes, and he was a cacao producer and exporter.
JL: Did Don Isidro García teach you the business?
RG: He raised me and taught me how to work, and I am infinitely grateful to him. I learned how to work the land and after that, I took over the cacao warehousing and quality control for exports.
JL: When did you return to farming cacao yourself?
RG: 16 years ago I left my uncle’s company to live on and work this farm, el Majagual. I administer the land of my mother, my brothers and that which I inherited from my father. I also manage the land belonging to my cousins, the daughters of Don Isidro García. I left the cacao trading world because many competing exporters did not care about the environment or the farms or the cacao quality. They would buy any kind of cacao if they could make money on it. Now as the farmer, I can focus on producing truly high quality, organic cacao.
JL: What kinds of cacao trees do you have growing?
RG: The cacao trees have been bred from the genetic varieties of many countries - Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Trinidad, Peru and Brazil. There is also a mix of cacao native to Venezuela, Trinitario from Trinidad, Nacional from Ecuador, and Amelonado from Brazil. We have 250 hectares of this very fine quality cacao.
JL: Why do you grow your cacao organically?
RG: For the environment and for health. We don’t apply any chemicals to our cacao trees or any others on the farm, because we also grow sapote, oranges, banana, plantain, yautia, and other crops.
JL: And how do you do your fermentation?
RG: The fermentation takes place in wooden boxes that each have a capacity of 625 pounds of cacao. We have three different fermentation centers for the farm, and the entire process takes a total of 6 days. We also have 50 solar drying tunnels, and 8 mechanical dryers, but these mechanical ones are only used during very rainy periods because they don’t get as hot and therefore require more time.
JL: Do you deal with a lot of rain in the region?
RG: I have seen a lot of changes in the harvest and the climate over the last few years. Climate change has brought with it a lot of challenges, including too much rain that can result in a poor harvest.
JL: Do you enjoy farming cacao, even with these challenges?
RG: I love cacao. I was born and grew up with this crop, and I learned to love everything about it. And it is my livelihood. As the saying goes, “When you love what you do, you do not see it as a job, you enjoy it.”
*Price Paid by Taza is on FOB terms and equal to the negotiated fixed price or to the negotiated premium plus the world market price on the day the contract is closed.