Fine Flavor from the Dominican Republic

The 1000 acre Zorzal Reserve in the Dominican Republic was originally envisioned as a pure conservation land trust approach to preserve biodiversity using the Bicknell’s thrush as a landmark species.  However, shortly after the reserve was designated in 2012 founder Charles Kerchner saw an opportunity to not only help local farmers receive higher prices for their cacao but also raise funds to help with management of the reserve.  This was the inspiration for Zorzal Cacao.

Zorzal Cacao began planting fine flavor cacao on the reserve, including ICS, UF and local varietals.  What started as 20 acres has now grown to almost 200.  Zorzal also purchases cacao from fifteen local farmers, at prices 50% higher than the local rate.

In 2018 Zorzal replaced their original fermentation and drying facility, which was located on the reserve, with a brand new, much larger facility in the nearby town of San Francisco de Macoris.  This new facility allows them an exceptional level of quality control and can handle a much higher volume of cacao, allowing them to buy cacao from a greater number of local farmers.

The facility is staffed by six full time workers and more than a dozen seasonal workers, all of whom are hired locally and paid above minimum wage.  In addition to a salary workers are given access to no interest revolving credit line, English classes and opportunities to travel to gain technical knowledge about cacao production and chocolate making.

A Perfect Match

We love the taste of brown butter and have wanted to do a brown butter bar for years.  The key was to find the perfect match of brown butter and cacao flavors, and none of our origins was the perfect fit.   We began testing brown butter with other cacao origins and as soon as we tasted it with Zorzal we knew this was it!  We quickly arranged a visit and were incredibly impressed with not only Zorzal’s mission and operation but also the quality of their cacao.  We now use their cacao exclusively for our Special Reserve: Brown Butter bar.

Learn More About Our Other Chocolate

Helping to harvest fresh pods on Isabel Then's farm.
Farmer Isabel Then bringing wet cacao (baba) to the Zorzal fermentary.
Zorzal's new fermentation area. The stepped boxes make it easier to turn the cacao.
"Turning" the cacao, a crucial step in the process.
The drying racks are covered for better temperature control.
Bagging dried beans for transport to the sorting area.
All of the beans are carefully sorted by hand before being put into sacks for shipment.
A painting of the Bicknell's Thrush, Zorzal Cacao's namesake, by a local artist.