The history of cacao cultivation in the Dominican Republic can be traced back to the 17th century. Initially, it was introduced by the Spanish, and later taken over by the French, who introduced more varieties from other colonies. Since then, the cacao industry has gradually thrived, and the diversity of cacao has greatly increased.
Cacao cultivation in the Dominican Republic is mainly operated by small-scale farmers. According to statistics, the country has approximately 40,000 cacao farms, managed by around 35,000 farmers. These farms have decentralized ownership and are small in scale, with cacao farmers often reluctant to invest in agricultural equipment. Cacao farms in the Dominican Republic typically employ a "natural growth" farming approach, allowing the cacao to grow naturally without extensive interventions.
In this model, cacao bean fermentation and export in the Dominican Republic are primarily handled by cooperatives. These cooperatives acquire unfermented fresh cacao beans, subject them to a uniform fermentation and drying process, and then export them worldwide. Because the cacao beans in cooperatives come from different regions and farms, each requiring different fermentation methods for various varieties, the uniform processing by cooperatives results in inconsistent levels of cacao bean fermentation. This makes it challenging for chocolate makers to establish proper roasting profiles to define and adjust the flavor and complexity of their cacao.
The cacao beans used by CACAOLAB are not acquired through cooperatives but purchased directly from farmers. These cacao farms and cacao trees have been passed down through generations, with farmers involved in cacao cultivation from a young age, giving them a deep understanding of cacao beans. They can determine the flavor of cacao just by looking at the color of the cacao pods. Their goal is to export their family's cacao beans worldwide, so they self-fund and establish fermentation centers, focusing on fermenting the cacao beans from their own farms. Although the cacao beans they grow are not artificially intervened, come in different varieties, and are difficult to trace back to the source, their years of experience and profound knowledge of cacao beans enable them to identify the ideal fermentation conditions and processing methods, resulting in cacao beans with rich flavor profiles.
CACAOLAB Wildcraft's cacao beans grow naturally in an unmanaged environment. Cacao seeds sprout naturally, gradually growing into cacao trees. The unique feature of these seeds is that they result from the combination of cacao flowers and pollinating pollen. This means that the trees grown from these seeds have different genetic combinations from the mother tree, resulting in cacao pods with different flavors. Here, almost every cacao tree has a unique genetic makeup, imparting distinct fruitiness and flavor to the cacao beans.