Top 5 TCHO Source Moments of 2019

TCHO Source is our unique program for partnering with cacao producers and cacao research institutions to create better cacao beans and corresponding benefits throughout our entire supply chain.  TCHO Source includes all of our cacao sourcing and our social responsibility initiatives in one.  For true change in the cacao and chocolate industry, we believe these functions cannot be separate.  In 2019, we purchased cacao beans and partnered with organizations in Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Ghana, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  We learned so much from our partners this past year that choosing only five highlights was a challenge, but here they are in no particular order!

  1. Presenting on standards for the sensory analysis of cacao at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s (FCIA) Elevate Chocolate Event with our Peruvian supply chain partners: Mey Choy Paz and Hernan Garcia Meza. We host our cacao suppliers here at TCHO as much as possible. Their visits to TCHO are extremely important to ensure shared understanding, clarifying our common goals, and taking the steps to reach them.  We prepare and taste their cacao bean samples in our Flavor Lab and tour the TCHO Chocolate factory.  This process illustrates exactly how we turn their cacao into chocolate and why the flavor of their cacao is so important!  We also love playing tour guide and sharing everything we have learned over the years with the broader fine chocolate industry.  FCIA’s January 2019 event was the perfect opportunity to do all of that with Hernan and Mey. 
    Hernan, Mey, and Laura at the Golden Gate Bridge Brad, Hernan and Mey in the TCHO Flavor Lab in Berkeley, CA Laura presenting at the FCIA's Elevate Chocolate Event
  2. TCHO Source visit to the Dominican Republic in April of this year- during high harvest. For this trip, we focused on meeting new potential TCHO cacao suppliers, visiting and learning from some of the best post- harvest processing facilities for cacao in the world, and visiting model organic cacao farms to see first-hand the impact of strategic intercropping and regenerative agriculture.
    Picking Cacao Pods Drying Beds Cacao Beans under Drying Bed
  3. Judging the XIII annual Peruvian National Cacao Competition along-side a jury of Peruvian tasters. TCHO has had the privilege of judging this annual national cacao competition for the past 8 years. This year 163 cacao samples were submitted to the contest.  Regional Peruvian juries narrowed these down to the top 37 samples, which an international jury, including TCHO, evaluated in July of this year.  The samples this year were the most impressive to date and several regions had winning cacao for the first time ever.  The top five winning samples are shown below and more about the event can be found here on the Peruvian Association of Cacao Farmers’ webpage.
    Place  Name  Organization Origin 
    1 Rony Mateo Espiritu Asociacion para la Conservación y Manejo de la Reserva Comunal Yanecha-AMARCY Palcazú- Oxapampa-Pasco
    2 Narvel Ruis Gonzáles Cooperativa Agroindustrial Perla de Huallaga Ltda.  Caserio Campo Florido-Yurimaguas-Alto Amazonas-Loreto
    3 José Natividad Cooperativa Agroindustrial Cacao Alto Huallaga Padre Felp Luyando-Leoncio Prado-Huánuco
    4 Mario Zuleta Vásquez Cooperativa de Servicios Multiples-Aprocam Bagua Grande-Amazonas
    5 Various Coop Members - Sample 2 Cooperativa Agroindustrial Campanilla-Sion-Coocas Campanilla Mariscal Cáceres-San Martin 
     Laura tasting Peruvian National Cacao Competition samples
  4. Expanding our partnership with the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).  TCHO first partnered with CRIG in 2012.  We installed a TCHO Flavor Lab at CRIG in 2013 and worked with a small group of tasters there on sensory analysis of cacao.  The team has been making excellent use of the lab and this skill set ever since.  CRIG makes samples of delicious well fermented cacao as well as samples of intentionally defective cacao (due to the cacao having disease or due to poor fermentation of the beans).  These samples are used to train farmers throughout Ghana on the importance of best practices for harvest and post-harvest.  With support from the African Cocoa Initiative II program- the lab and CRIG’s role as a trainer are growing to an international level.  CRIG has plans in 2020 to not only continue to train groups throughout Ghana, but also key actors in the cacao sectors of Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Cameroon.  TCHO proudly signed an agreement with CRIG this year to further increase their facilities for research and training on sensory analysis of cacao and the importance of flavor!
    The awesome team at the Cocoa Reasearch Institute of Ghana and Laura
  5. Sourcing Fair Trade Organic Cacao beans from Ghana for the first time and using them in our chocolate.  TCHO has long been interested in organic cacao from Ghana, but several challenges have prevented us with sourcing… until 2019!  This past year we solidified a partnership with a wonderful cooperative in Ghana with Fair Trade and Organic certification.  We were also able to process these beans into cocoa liquor at a factory in Ghana.  Whenever possible, TCHO prefers to process cacao beans into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder in the same country the beans are produced in.  This keeps significantly more money in the cacao producing country and it also lowers the size and weight of the shipments (and corresponding carbon footprint) to our factory in the USA.   We look forward to working with both these partners again in 2020.
    Roasting at origin in Ghana TCHO's first batch of Organic and Fair Trade certified cacao liquor from Ghana! Evaluating cacao beans directly from the drying bed in Ghana One of our farmer partners during the cacao harvest

Written by TCHO Source Director, Laura Ann Sweitzer