Taza’s Director of Cocoa Sourcing, Jesse Last, interviews Finca Elvesia’s Isidro Castillo to fulfill the promise of making Isidro famous via the 2017 Transparency Report.
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: 150
Fermentation Model: Tiered wooden boxes
Average Fermentation Rate: 80%
Drying Model: Solar tunnels
Total Cacao Exported: 150 MT
Annual volume purchased by Taza: 88.2 metric tons
Average price paid by Taza*: $3,169 per metric ton
Isidro Castillo fell in love with cacao nearly ten years ago during a summer spent working at the Dominican export company Rizek. After graduating high school, Isidro moved to the capital Santo Domingo and studied business administration, but he returned to Rizek as a full-time employee in 2010. Two years ago, Isidro happily accepted a position at historic Finca Elvesia, Taza Chocolate’s long-time partner in the eastern Hato Mayor region of the Dominican Republic. At a time when many young people in the country have left their farms, Isidro has embraced a career in agriculture. In the following interview translated from Spanish, Isidro describes his role at Finca Elvesia and his passion for cacao.
JL: Can you tell us about your responsibilities at Finca Elvesia?
IC: My core responsibilities involve quality control and traceability - first, when the beans are harvested in the field, then, when they are fermented and dried at our processing facility, and finally, when they are bagged and loaded onto a truck that brings them to our export partner.
JL: Why is traceability so important to the farm?
IC: Because we are certified Organic, everything must be well documented to show that we comply with these standards. Also, I make sure that the cacao is handled in a way that we get the best quality possible.
JL: How do you get the best quality?
IC: For example, with fermentation. It is a delicate process. Cacao needs to reach between 45 and 50 degrees Celsius during fermentation, so a lot depends on the climate. During our cooler winter harvest we carefully monitor the beans and rotate them so they get the oxygen required to catalyze the fermentation process. If we fail to rotate the cacao and to generate enough heat, the cacao ends up bitter. During the summer, when the temperature shoots up, we might take off the banana leaves that we use to cover the fermentation boxes.
JL: Quality control is an important job...
IC: Yes, but I don’t see working at Finca Elvesia as a job. It’s more like an adventure. When you work on a cacao farm, it’s like being in another world surrounded by these trees that provide us with a food we enjoy so much!
JL: What would you say is your favorite part about cacao?
IC: I like that cacao can be a sustainable activity - we can grow cacao without damaging the environment and its biodiversity. That’s something I’ve always appreciated. Also, I like learning from other cacao farmers. They are friendly, and they’ll surprise you with what they share. They have a special way of caring for their trees based on lived experience. It’s a knowledge that fills me with joy.
*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.