Country: Dominican Republic
Region: El Cibao, Duarte Province
Number of Farmers: 108
Partner Since: 2013
Cacao Tasting Notes: Ripe mango, banana and citrus; bright acidity
Gualberto Acebey Torrejon and Adriano de Jesus Rodriguez export some of the world's finest cacao. Yet the recognition they enjoy today took them decades to earn. The men met in the Dominican Republic more than thirty years ago as colleagues at the world's largest organic cacao cooperative. Side by side, Gualberto and Adriano honed their cacao fermentation and drying skills through obsessive investigation and data collection. Finally, in 2006, they launched an enterprise of their own: OKO Caribe. They entered a competitive and at times cut-throat Dominican cacao industry, but their dedication and integrity won the loyalty of a growing number of smallholder farmers. Today, Gualberto and Adriano ferment and dry the cacao beans of 108 producers, in turn exporting to Japan, Europe, and the US. As one of OKO Caribe's earliest and largest buyers, Taza is immensely proud to call Gualberto and Adriano partners and friends.
OKO Caribe's cacao collection and processing center is located just outside of San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. A giant cacao pod statue greets visitors as they enter the city, announcing the important role of cacao in the local economy. The company's producer partners live throughout the larger region known as El Cibao, home to 21,000 of the country’s approximately 35,000 cacao farming families. El Cibao's deep, rich soils and regular rainfall also support rice and coffee cultivation, and the fertile valley is considered the country's cultural heartland.
Farmers in the region generally own several hectares of land, planted partially or entirely with cacao trees. During the country's two cacao harvest seasons, the farmers cut open the pods, remove the fruit-covered seeds (commonly referred to as beans), and place them in buckets to be collected by OKO Caribe. Once transported to the company's processing facility, the organic cacao beans undergo six days of expert fermentation in wooden boxes followed by a week of solar drying, give or take a day based on the weather. The whole process is closely monitored by Adriano and Gualberto, and their love of cacao results in an exceptional bean with notes of cherry and ripe mango with a bright finish that serves as the base bean for over 50% of Taza's chocolate.
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