We believe our process should value the community of growers, producers, and makers whose livelihoods depend on cacao and chocolate. It takes an entire village of individuals, literally stretching across cultures and continents, to make every delicious bar. As chocolate makers, we’re at the end of this supply chain closest to the customer. This allows us to tell some of the stories behind each bar we make.
Some of these stories are told through flavor: where the cacao came from, the conditions it was grown in, and how it was processed into chocolate are all expressed through taste. But some of these stories aren’t fully expressed through flavor: the stories of the growers, the workers, the exporters, the makers, and so on. It’s up to us to make sure our customers have access to those stories, too. This is what transparency is all about.
This page will be long. If you'd prefer to skip to each origin's page, scroll to the bottom.
You’ve been forewarned! The global chocolate supply chain is, to understate things, very complicated. We’ve done our best to break it down for you in a way we think makes sense without making your head hurt too much or worse, dumb the information down. Alas, we are a small chocolate maker with limited resources, so consider this a work in progress.
Still with us? Good.
We’ll start with us: we created Raaka because we knew there was a better way to make chocolate: from scratch; with traceable, high quality, single origin cacao; transparently sourced; and crafted into something uncommonly delicious. This model doesn’t quite fit into any of the current certifications, so we built our own. We call this model Transparent Trade and we’ve based it on the following principles:
We purchase cacao directly from cooperatives and grower organizations that focus on quality, sustainability, field support, market access, and premium prices for farmers.
We will always purchase cacao at stable, premium prices that are higher than commodity market and Fair Trade prices and protected from market fluctuations.
We publish each transaction on our website for verification and accountability.
The following pages offer a look into each of the producers we work with, some stories about our relationship with them, what we pay for their cacao, and what the supply chain from farmer to Raaka looks like.
But wait, there’s more!
There’s actually quite a bit more. But we trust you’re curious, so we’re going to dive right in. See, those three principles are deceptively simple. When we talk about cacao trade, we’re talking about working with micro-economies with different needs. We’re not just talking about comparing apples to oranges, we’re talking about comparing them to bananas, peaches, mangoes, and blueberries, too. While the data we’ve published here tells a story, some context is required to understand it.
As individuals who like to think of themselves as responsible, we kindly insist you bear with us and read through these pages to familiarize yourself with some concepts and terms.
The specific details of fermentation and drying will vary from origin to origin but the basics remain the same: first cacao beans are packed in an enclosed environment, such as wooden boxes covered with banana leaves, allowing native yeast to consume the fruit pulp’s sugar, creating alcohol. The noble yeast die in the process, making room for bacteria to take over and create acids. This process can be anywhere from four to eight days.
Once the fermentation is complete, the cacao beans are dried in the sun or in drying tunnels to end the fermentation process and continue flavor development. This can take anywhere from four days to two weeks. The result is a cacao bean with more flavor and complexity.
FOB includes the post-harvesting process and transportation to the nearest port of shipment. The FOB price is different for each producer we work with because the market prices and administrative fees change with each region. Remember, we’re talking about several different micro-economies, and therefore this is not an apples-to-apples comparison (unless we’re talking Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji… you get the idea). Essentially, the FOB reflects everything from market competition, cost of living, operational costs, and shipping. For example, the port of shipment in Tanzania is much farther from Kokoa Kamili’s facilities than the port of shipment in the Dominican Republic is from Zorzal Cacao’s facilities, which makes it harder and more expensive for Kokoa Kamili to ship their cacao, so their transportation and logistic fees will be different from Zorzal’s.
Additionally, the market for fine flavor cacao in the Dominican Republic is far more mature, heavily incentivized by the government, and competitive than, say, Peru, so those two markets will have different prices. This can make comparing market prices difficult; it’s often a situation of apples and oranges, which is why we focus on market price stability.
All of the producers we purchase cacao from provide added services beyond simply acting as a buyer, processor, and exporter. Take CAC Pangoa, who provides technical support against disease prevention, sells cacao seedlings at or below cost, and distributes an additional 70% of the FOB price to participating farmers of the coop (30% of the FOB price goes towards running the cooperative, which includes all post-harvest processing, sales, export, and logistics labor).
You’ll find farmgate prices in each partner’s profile. We've chosen to compare the farmgate prices of producers we work with to the most recent (2018) farmgate price paid to farmers in the Ivory Coast, the country that produces the majority of the world's cacao, which was set at $1.34 per kg. This is not to discourage purchasing chocolate made from Ivorian cacao, but rather to contextualize the data. We encourage you to take the time to contextualize the farmgate price for each origin so that you can have a better understanding of the impact each producer has within their community.
Certifications are a great way to simplify shopping. They provide a verified seal of approval that gains our trust because someone has already vetted something for us. There’s nothing inherently wrong with certifications; many of them open up new, more valuable markets, and we have some of them. But certifications often fail to realize the needs of micro-economies, especially when it comes to farmgate price.
As a chocolate maker, we strive to be a good partner to cacao producers we work with. This means understanding the individual needs of every community we work with. We find that the Fair Trade purchase price minimum is too low and doesn’t provide enough protection from market fluctuations. This is why we focus on price stability and transparency.
This is why we focus on price stability: it allows our producer partners to rely on us as a reliable buyer year after year, improving their quality of life.
What we pay for cacao
The graph below displays the prices we pay to each producer we work with, as well as the minimum Fair Trade price for organic cacao and the commodity price since 2016. The purpose of this graph is to illustrate the fluctuations in the commodity and Fair Trade prices, and thus the importance of price stability for both farmers and producers.
Our producer partners
The following pages offer a look into each producer partner we work with. Each producer has their own story, and we've done our best to present a meaningful portrait of each. We're always updating these pages with new producers and new stories from our existing partners. We hope you find these pages educational. Don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you might have about our producer partners and our sourcing practices at email@example.com.