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Rediscovering Chocolate

Hacienda San Jose

How a Venezuelan co-operative uses agroforestry to grow and protect a rare variety of cocoa

The chocolate industry is dominated by two varieties of cocoa – Forastero and Trinitario – which account for 97% of global production. A third variety, Criollo, which can be traced back to the Mayans and the Aztecs, has recovered from the brink of extinction to make up the remaining 3%.

Criollo's delicate, more complex flavours make it attractive to luxury chocolate makers like Domori, whose founder, Gianluca Franzoni, first encountered the variety when he visited Venezuela in the 90s.

After three years experimentation, he set up an agreement with local growers to establish a 450-acre plantation at the Hacienda San Jose, where the criollo is cultivated amongst trees that produce papaya, mango and mahogany. A sustainable supply chain has enabled Domori to pay the farmers at the hacienda a good price for their cocoa, ensuring long-term sustainability all-round.

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