Dominican Republic Sourcing Trip

We had a great visit to Zorzal Cacao in the Dominican Republic!

We loved their beans since we first tasted them last year but up until now we haven’t had time for a visit.  We’re so happy we finally made it happen!

Our timing was great as Zorzal recently completed construction of their new fermentation and drying facility, which not only allows them to better control the entire post-harvest process but also can accommodate a much larger volume of cacao beans.

Zorzal’s new fermentation facility.

Zorzal Cacao was founded by Charles Kerchner, who was inspired to create the 1030 acre Reserva Privada el Zorzal following his work in the area to protect the habitat of the Bicknell’s Thrush, after which the reserve is named.  His work with cacao began when he saw the potential of the fine flavor chocolate market to increase the prices paid to local farmers for their cacao.

Sorting the beans by hand before they’re bagged for shipment.

The Reserva Privada is planted with 130 acres of cacao trees, which are a mix of different clones, including ICS, UF and local clones named after Mata Larga, which is the local Cacao Experimental Station.  The beans from these trees are used to create their Zorzal Estate cacao.  Zorzal also sources beans from local farmers, which are used to create the Zorzal Communitario, which is what we’re sourcing.  The trees from which this cacao is harvested is a mix of many of the same clonal varieties as the Zorzal Estate, along with other local varieties.

Charles with Zorzal’s Office Manager, Damarys Then, and Fermentation Manager Heriberto Paredes.

Zorzal has strict quality control procedures to ensure the cacao is always of the highest quality.  They work with the local farmers on sustainable farming methods, propagation of fine flavor varietals, proper tree maintenance and pruning, and good harvesting techniques.  When the pods are harvested Zorzal requires the wet beans (baba) be delivered to their fermentation facility on the same day to maximize flavor and quality.

Cracking open pods to prepare the wet cacao beans (baba) for fermentation.

During our trip we visited the farm of Isabel Then, from whom we’ll be getting our beans.  It was the height of harvest season and we found her among the cacao trees overseeing the seasonal workers she hires to help with harvesting and cracking the pods.  We were able to see the harvest practices firsthand, and also helped with cracking some of the pods and scooping out the beans to prepare them for their trip to Zorzal for fermentation.  While we were there we also shared some of our chocolate which was made from Zorzal’s cacao!

Isabel transporting the baba in bags to Zorzal’s fermentation facility.

These beans will be used in a new Special Reserve bar which we’ll be releasing in the fall.  Be sure to join our mailing list in order to to the first to know when it’s released!

We had a great time visiting with Charles and everyone else at Zorzal Cacao, which is doing amazing work and helping to improve the quality of Dominican cacao as well as the finances of the Dominican cacao farmers from whom they source.  We’re proud to be a partner!