Cacao

The best chocolate begins with the finest cacao. Zorzal offers artisan chocolate producers cacao varietals selected for their nuanced flavors and intense aromas. As our farm grows, we continue to plant new varietals based on feedback from leaders in the fine flavor chocolate market. Beginning in 2016, Reserva Zorzal will also begin to offer custom fermentation lots to meet each chocolate makers’ needs.

On our 130-acre organic demonstration farm in the Dominican Republic, we blend research and experience with our passion for cacao and sustainable development. By selecting fine flavored grafted varietals that improve quality and quantity per acre, we increase farmer income.

In addition to producing our own cacao on Reserva Zorzal, we buy cacao from our neighbors who share our vision for quality and conservation. Beginning in mid 2016, our Zorzal Communitario line of cacao will also become available in limited quantities.

Our cacao varietals are hand selected for their unique flavor by professional chocolate makers. Next, we graft the stem (or “scion”) with the desired genes of the selected varietal onto a cacao rootstock. Trees stay in the tree nursery for 4-5 months before being transported to Reserva Zorzal.

stage-2-bananaWe next plant the sapling along with organic fertilizer at the farm under shade provided by banana plants or native wood species. Compared to large, open cacao plantations, these shade-grown conditions offer much better habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Ramon Cacao Mule
Mule transport

Between January and June each year, we harvest cacao pods every 21 days. Frequent harvesting ensures only ripe, mature pods are selected. Cacao is harvested by hand and transported by mule.

Fermenting
Fermenting

Finally we transport the wet, ripe beans to the fermenting center, where the beans are placed in fermenting boxes. The pulp sugars of the cacao become acetic acid, which improves the quality of the bean by killing the embryo within the seed, imparts flavors and reduces the natural bitterness. Finally, the beans are sun dried for 5-6 days to a moisture content of less than 3% and exported in 154-pound sacks to artisan chocolate makers in the United States and Canada.