Raw Cacao and Eco-Friendly Cacao
When enjoying the delicious taste of raw cacao, have you ever wondered where it comes from? We’ve noticed in recent years greater awareness about the cacao forests. When we started Cacao Source, most people we met had never seen a cacao tree in their life but now, it’s changing, people are interested in eco-friendly cacao!
Cacao is beyond chocolate or your ceremonial cacao drink: it is a seed to many changes. Yes, it is literally a seed. Also, it is a beautiful fruit with white pulp that you can eat fresh. Beyond the seed and the fruit, the tree itself is an incredible ally to environmental challenges when it grows in its optimal condition.
The first amazing thing to know about cacao is that it absorbs 50 kg of CO2 a year. This makes it an amazing ally for carbon sequestration. This means taking CO2 out of the atmosphere– an important tool against climate change. Cacao farm owners too often mistakenly transition their shaded cacao tree culture into a full-sun monoculture. This system greatly reduces carbon storage. In order to keep cacao as an environmental ally, it is very important to support cacao growing in a shaded system.
A shaded cacao system is a win-win for nature and us. The cacao tree is much more productive, has a life longevity twice higher, it encourages biodiversity and has a higher CO2 sequestration capacity. Agroforestry refers to a food-growing system from trees. Ideally, as with cacao, other food trees, like avocado and ramon, complement the cacao trees by providing shade.
When approaching the cultivation of cacao, we must see the bigger picture. A monoculture system will eventually deteriorate the soil in which your crop grows and the yield will get smaller and smaller. Eventually, you will have to cut down more forest in order to move you production away, leaving behind poor soil and compromising biodiversity. Cacao production has become one of the main causes of deforestation in West Africa and a similar trend is emerging in Asia. The practice is a short term solution to mass production with very little future in regards to cultivation of the lands.
As a happy shaded tree, cacao strives around taller and smaller trees, making cacao perfect to add in a diversified agriculture plan. The cacao tree is very generous to its soil in that it offers copious leaf litter to the ground. This leaf litter creates the microhabitat needed for the mycelial network to thrive.
With Cacao Source we like to believe that the best way to know the sustainability of the farms behind your products isn’t found in the amount of labels, but rather in your direct connection with the farmer. This creates the magic of knowing the name of your farmer, the land in which your cacao grows, and the impact of your choices of consumption directly on the local community.
Beyond the farming production of cacao, it is important to explore all the processes of your cacao in order to identify it as eco-friendly. Cacao can be peeled by machinery. Alternatively, it can be hand-peeled, which allows job opportunities to a larger number of people, especially women. If the cacao it processed by machines, perhaps then it is important to examine the energy necessary to operate these machines and infrastructures, and the businesses supported behind this processing.
Afterwards, look into the packaging of your favorite cacao. There is a trend to vacuum seal cacao, but what type of plastic is used for this practice? Yes, it’s possible to have biodegradable vacuum-seal packaging, but it is not that common. With Cacao Source, we’ve used the airtight guideline, which so far hasn’t had governmental regulation obstruction. This has allowed us to use the most eco-friendly plastic bags available around us.
Looking to the Future
Of course, being eco-friendly isn’t a destination but rather a path. Every business can always improve their environmental impact. With Cacao Source, we are unhappy with the shipment methods used at the moment and are actively seeking into sailing the cacao instead of using mainstream shipment companies. It is a slow work in progress but our team is very inspired for the transition. We are also seeking for better quality and higher biodegradable packaging. In time, we hope to continue honoring and sharing cacao by adopting the most sustainable practices so that this medicine can be enjoyed by generations to come.