origin of cocoa

Cerrado baiano

Home to one third of Brazil’s remarkable biodiversity, the Brazilian Cerrado is popularly known as “the richest savannah on the planet”. Cacao and Cerrado are not words that often seen together, a fact that directly aroused our curiosity.

Almost all of the cocoa produced in the state of Bahia comes from southern Bahia - in the Atlantic Forest biome.

The Fazenda Estancia Solaris is located in the interior of the state, almost on the border with 5 other Brazilian states and with an entirely different climate to that found in southern Bahia. When we heard about this project, we were equally captivated by its ambition as by its unique characteristics.

Biome Cerrado

The Cerrado covers about 22% of Brazil’s land mass. Also known as the Brazilian Savannah, it is the second largest biome in both Brazil and all of South America. With diverse vegetation spread over fields and forests, the geological variety implies a mosaic of different morphological landscapes, often with distinctive and unique features. Blessed with long hours of sunshine, its vegetation exhibits colours that may vary from green to yellowish, resulting from discoloration.

The area covered by the Cerrado benefits from a seasonal tropical climate, with two very distinct seasons: rainy summers and very dry winters, with air humidity reaching as low as 15%. The soils of the Cerrado are shallow, well-drained and ancient, dating from the Tertiary period, as well as reddish and acidic due to the high aluminium content. In the dry season, because of the accumulation of dry biomass, low humidity and strong sunlight, the Cerrado is known to catch fire naturally and spontaneously. Fires are even beneficial and part of the natural cycle of vegetation renewal, but they usually occur on a small scale and cause little damage.

In addition to promoting reforestation and the preservation of the Cerrado, growing cocoa in these new semi-arid climatic conditions helps prevent fungal diseases such as “witches' broom”, a disease that decimated cocoa crops in southern Bahia about thirty years ago.

Fazenda

Estância Solaris

A forerunner of this project in an initially 15-hectare plantation, the cacao producer Antelmo Farias won the enthusiasm of Moisés Shmidt. Believing in cocoa in the West of Bahia and due to the promising conditions, the addition to the project of a large, family agricultural company, allowed an increase in investment focused on cutting-edge agricultural technologies.

In the more than seven years of the project, the areas planted in the experimental phase showed excellent results. Varieties and genetics that adapted well to the climate were tested and cultivated, resulting in both productivity and flavour quality.

Each tree and each allotment receives its own QR code to help monitor the plant's health, growth and fruit. They have recently increased the planted area and invested in a gigantic nursery that will be the basis for their next growth in partnerships with small producers in the region.

Credit for cocoa production was made available by a local bank to encourage small rural producers to plant cocoa along with other, shorter-cycle crops. After only three years of planting cocoa, producers can already expect an income of R$1,500.00 per month per hectare.

Adriana Reis em visita com o senhor Moises Shmidt

In the near future, Antelmo seeks also to produce honey from the cocoa flower. Cocoa is not normally pollinated by bees but rather manually or by small insects, mainly small flies. However, in the Cerrado there is one specific bee that pollinates the cocoa flower. It has already been planned to introduce beehives around the plantations in order to produce an atypical and unique nectar; cocoa blossom honey.

There was no doubt that we wanted to be involved in this project and became partners of Fazenda Estância Solaris.

It would be the fulfilment of a dream for any chocolatier to establish, alongside the producer, a fermentation and fruit selection protocol, which will give the brand and chocolate a unique flavour profile.

This is precisely what Antelmo suggested, and it is together that we will work the coming harvests in order to personalise the cocoa.

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