At a Glance
Population: 11 million
Capital: Santo Domingo
Rural population: 17.5%
Median age: 28 years
Cocoa Production: 85,000 tons/year
Production ranking: 9th
The Dominican Republic is a trustworthy source of sustainably produced fine or flavor cacao, offering opportunities for direct relationships with cacao growers or cooperatives. The marketing structure delivers producers one of the highest rates of return in the world (80 percent of world price), so you can be confident that consuming a chocolate bar with cacao from the Dominican Republic is socially responsible.
The Dominican Republic is the largest producer of organic sustainable cacao in the world, about 70,000 tons of high-grade, organic, fine-flavor cacao for export each year. While two percent of the world’s cocoa is sourced from the Dominican Republic, 70 percent of the world’s organic certified cocoa is sourced from the Dominican Republic.
With six million North American and European tourists a year, the Dominican Republic is likely the most visited cacao-producing nation in the world, and most visitors want to purchase something back home that reminds them of their experience. With the country’s unique marine soil, Dominican cacao has some of the lowest levels of heavy metal cadmium in the world.
History of Cocoa
The cacao tree originated in the nearby Amazon or Orinoco river basins of the South American homeland of the ancestors of the Taino, the native inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola.
Cacao was introduced into the Dominican Republic by the Spaniards at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Just a few decades later the French had taken over the island and planted new varieties taken from other colonies. It was not until the mid-ninteenth century that cocoa became a relevant export commodity in the country.
In the last agricultural census of 1988, surface planted with cocoa represented nearly 10 percent of the total superficies of secondary forests.
Cocoa Flavor Attributes
Dominican Republic cacao has one of the most distinctive and diverse genetic bases in the world, primarily criollo and trinitario, with strong fine flavor imports from Trinidad and Venezuela. The taste of Dominican cacao reflects the variety and the richness of its genotype.
Grown by small farmers with diverse production, Dominican cacao peculiar and notable note is fruitiness. Fruity flavors in our cocoa may have hues of ripe bananas, citrus and prunes, with a hint of Caribbean warmth in all of them.
Cacao land ownership in the Dominican Republic is mainly made-up of smallholders, where 40,000 farms belong to 35,000 families. Farm size is between 2 and 5 Ha in 70 percent of cases. These smallholder farms are polyculture and involve associated production of avocado, breadfruit, star apple, citrus, coconut, guava, soursop, and jagua that all contribute to the unique flavor profile.
The Northeastern region, called the Cibao, is a notable exception, as the average farm size is above 7.5 Ha. and the occurrence of even bigger farms is not uncommon.
Harvesting & Marketing
In the Dominican Republic, cocoa buyers (processors and exporters) collect fresh (wet) cocoa and manage the processing in-house to assure cocoa flavor quality according to the market and specificity of some clients. The approach allows processors to meet market standards by controlling the quality of the fermented cocoa. International buyers often have specific “recipes” for fermentation, making the exporter-managed fermentation an important attribute to the Dominican cocoa industry. Labor intensive wet bean sieving, hand sorting on drying tables, and final selection by hand all contribute consistent high quality.
The Dominican Republic represents a unique case in the global supply of cocoa as, while almost 100 percent of the beans grown are of “fine or flavor” genetic quality, only about 60 percent of the cocoa is fermented following harvest and before export. It is this fermentation process that allows the true “fine or flavor” taste profile to develop; Sanchez cocoa is not fine or flavor cocoa. Only Indonesia and the Dominican Republic offer unfermented cocoa. There is a strong global market for Dominican unfermented cocoa because it is less expensive for chocolatiers to purchase. It lacks complex chocolate flavors that develop during the fermentation process, and is mixed with fermented cocoa and used for “covertures” — the covering of a candy bar for example.
Purchasers appreciate the Dominican Republic’s supply of unfermented cocoa as a cost-reduction strategy, while Dominican exporters likewise find economic benefit in their option to sell both Sanchez and Hispaniola cocoa.
Visit the DR and experience something new
El Sendero del Cacao
Enjoy and experience the art of Dominican cacao and chocolate making at our tours in Hacienda La Esmeralda. Since 2008, we have received visitors from all over the world who wish to learn and share our passion for cacao and chocolate.
On our Classic Cacao Tour, you’ll learn the steps necessary to make quality cacao. It all begins with the sowing. You can sow your own cacao plant, learn about the harvest, the splitting of the pod and the extraction of the beans. Then we continue with the post-harvest process: fermentation and drying, which are determining factors in the quality of the chocolate. Learn about the Dominican Republic’s ecosystem and why it offers the perfect conditions for growing fine cacao which is transformed into the best quality chocolate.
After that, visit the La Esmeralda Chocolate Factory, where the various chocolate aromas will enchant you. Learn about the steps needed to make a delicious chocolate bar – and even make your own!
Carretera San Francisco de Macorís – Tenares, Las Pajas
San Francisco de Macorís, República Dominicana
Located in the center of the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, Kahkow Experience is a place to learn about the origins of cacao and chocolate, starting in our holographic theater, In our Mystic Forest, visitors can taste the delicious cacao beans and learn about post-harvest treatment techniques. Then, you can continue the journey and enter our Hall of Senses, where you can use all five senses to appreciate the ingredients of our exquisite chocolates. Some of these include shavings, cacao butter, vanilla and other secret ingredients. At the end, enjoy drinks, snacks and desserts from the Kahkow bar and enter the Kahkow store, where you will find a wide variety of products and souvenirs.
Soap lab: Make your own soap with our cacao butter formula made at La Esmeralda, and add a special touch with your preferred aroma.
Chocolate factory: Create your own chocolate bar at our Kahkow chocolate factory. Here the fun continues and chocolate comes to life!
Kahkow Knowledge Trips
Artisan chocolatiers and chocolate makers are able to create a direct link with the five micro-origins from which we supply cacao ingredients, such as cacao beans, nibs, mass, powder, and butter, during four to five days of shared educational experiences, coordinated and led by the team of experts from Rizek Cacao, SAS. As part of their itinerary, we tour farms and cacao processing facilities. Visitors also participate in educational seminars on cacao genetics, fermentation and drying techniques, during which they learn about the incidence of each stage for the creation of aromatic notes for the final products.
Location: San Francisco de Macorís & Santo Domingo
Rainforest Chocolate Origin Trips
Zorzal Cacao offers rainforest chocolate origin trips that take participants on a deep dive journey into cacao farming, fermentation, chocolate tasting, and exploring the rainforest and coastal ecology of the Dominican Republic.
Participants will spend a week meeting with farmers, touring Reserva Zorzal which is a 1,019-acre bird sanctuary and organic cacao farm, visiting fermentation and drying facilities, and spending some time in the sun!
Hacienda Cufa Cacao Trail Tour
Hacienda Cufa is a small organic cacao producing farm where nature is the number one priority. Located in the “La Mariposa” town in the municipality of Guananico, Puerto Plata City, Dominican Republic, the farm has a seven-stop trail that activates all five senses, leading to the discovery of chocolate’s beneﬁts and secrets from the sowing and harvest, to artisanal chocolate hand-making. The farm’s name is in honor of Porﬁrio Mercado “Don (Mr.) Cufa,” originator of the agricultural work in the farm and promulgator of family values and environment caring.
It’s a unique experience of direct contact with the purest nature. Guests will enjoy the “Bebida de los dioses” (Gods’ drink), a “chocoterapia” (chocolate + cacao butter clay), an unforgettable traditional Dominican meal, and the opportunity to take a bath in the river that cross the farm while also enjoying the nature sightseeing and on-site recreation activities.
The Cacao trail tour includes: Circuit through the seven stops with detailed explanation of the chocolate-making process from the sowing to the harvest, a freshly-made hot cocoa and chocolate marmalade, and a chocoterapia facial.
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Disclaimer: All reservations have to be made at least two days prior to a visit.