To the Origin of Ullulawl
Here at Cacao Source, high-quality cacao sourcing is one of our greatest priorities. We are in love with our Ullulawl cacao origin, not just because of the quality of the seeds, but also because of all of the extra care that goes into the community. In this week’s blog article, we’ll take you behind the scenes of Ulluawl origin. Tuq’tuquilal is the name of the regeneration center, which is making tidal waves of positive impact with the land and the community. How’s that for “more than your average cup of cacao”?
Behold, one of the ancient ancestral lands of cacao, tucked away deep within the Guatemalan country side, at the mouth of the Lanquin River. These hot, humid jungles make the perfect growing conditions for cacao. The word “Ullulawl” is the spiritual name for the land, and means in Englsih, “Land of the Paca,” which is a large, very cute rodent. And, for centuries, the Q’eqchi’ (an indigenous group within Guatemala) have been cultivating these lands. However, generations of extraction and trauma, even government (US and Guatemala) sponsored genocide campaigns towards indigenous people, there has been great hardship to overcome. We are in deep admiration of the Q’eqchi’, who have remained resilient, proud, and firmly rooted in deep ecological and cosmological relationships.
When Jojo and I first visited the regeneration center in 2019, it literally brought tears to our eyes the level of reverence and respect the community had for cacao. On the night of the full moon, we walked into the jungle out to a beautiful altar. There, the local elders led us through a beautiful fire ceremony that really touched our hearts and made us feel deeply honored to be included in their work. Since then, the heart of the project has continued to grow, reaching more families, raising the prices paid to farmers, and creating more opportunities for work and creating high-quality cacao.
Today, there are 63 families that participate in the network of cacao that is processed at Tuq’tuquilal. Each one of these relationships represents more than your typical monetary exchange for a commodity product. Instead, Tuq’tuquilal has invested lots of time into developing the quality of connection that they have from each producing family. Instead of the typical form of business of seeing how much they can get, Tuq’tuquilal asks what they can give. What do the farmers need? How much more financially can Tuq’tuquilal value the cacao and uplevel the quality of living for everyone involved? How can community workshops improve the quality of cacao and the value of the network as a whole?
Tuq’tuquilal has been investing more and more time and energy in doing just that: Offering free workshops to the community that improve the quality of cacao, and offering more money per pound of cacao. In fact, in just two years, they have raised the price that they buy the cacao at 31%. Again, this type of action represents huge departure from the norm in the chocolate industry where buyers are constantly trying to cut costs and undervalue the costs of labor.
“We hope this price leadership can create a national and international precedent that supports dignified regenerative cacao cultivation and cultivator communities across the globe.” – Tuq’tuquilal
Fortunately, chemical agriculture is something that never reached these remote Q’equchi villages. Instead, the wisdom of ancient agricultural practices has remained strong. Such techniques include organic composting, tree trimming, replanting, and multi cropping. In addition to planting cacao, each parcel also contains a variety of other plants. Madre cacao (also known as mother cacao) is a companion plant often alongside cacao as it fixes nitrogen into the soil, provides shade, and even naturally produces a chemical that deters rodents. The farmers’ parcels also include banana, plantain, kola, cardamom, black pepper, vanilla, mahogany, cedar, copal, and other timber trees, fruit trees, and medicinal plants. Most families are also cultivating spices (cardamom, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper) on their parcels, and various produce for self-consumption. Planting and harvesting is often aligned with lunar cycles and the Mayan calendar.
For us, the work being done with Tuq’tuquilal reflects the caliber of care we know to be reflected in meaningful, ceremonial medicine. The land is really healing, and the relationships in the community are growing stronger and stronger. Maybe this is what makes the flavors within the Ullulawl cacao so potent and joyful!