There are so many reasons to support the kind of ethical and sustainable chocolate we stock at The High Five Company, and one that we’re particularly passionate about is the preservation of heirloom cacao. When we say ‘heirloom cacao’, we’re talking about the rare, ancient varietals of beans that many craft chocolate makers work with, and these beans contain incredible and unique flavours. Heirloom cacao has a huge amount of historical, botanical, social and geographical significance.
Unfortunately, many types of heirloom cacao are lost every year, predominantly due to the mass deforestation that is happening in rainforest areas around the world. On top of that, many farmers are replacing heirloom cacao trees with problematic clone species, which are designed to deliver high yields of fruit (pods) and are resistant to diseases, but which are devoid of the unique flavours that make heirloom cacao so special.
This loss of biodiversity has many implications. Firstly, we are losing high quality and flavourful cacao each year, thus heading towards a world of more boring and monotone chocolate. But more importantly, we are losing species that could hold the key to cacao’s survival! With global warming and the increase of extreme weather conditions in many cacao growing regions, we’re seeing untold strains on cacao farming and the possibility of a future where cacao is completely extinct. If we’re going to save this incredible plant, we need as many genetic varietals as possible on the planet, as we don’t know which ones might hold the key to survival.
This is one of the reasons we love supporting chocolate makers who source specialist cacao from growers who work in harmony with nature. The vast majority of the chocolate we stock is made with rare beans that come from indigenous trees grown in agroforestry initiatives (rather than deforestation and mono-cropping). These beans are grown by talented, passionate farmers who value quality and flavour over cheap mass-production.
If you’d like to learn more about heirloom cacao, be sure to check out Heirloom Cacao Preservation, which is a partnership between USDA and the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.
And if you’d like to taste some chocolate made with exceptional heirloom cacao, we highly recommend the following bars…
To’ak Chocolate – Rain Harvest 2018
Fruition Chocolate – Wild Forest Bolivia
Dick Taylor – Belize, Toledo
Standout Chocolate – Madagascar Sambirano
Amano – Guayas River Basin, Ecuador
Qantu Chocolat – Chaska, Junin, Peru