Zorzal Cacao, Dominican Republic
REGION/COUNTRY: Duarte Province, Dominican Republic
TYPE: Fermentary, Estate, and Bird Sanctuary
BEAN SOURCE: Blend of estate-grown and neighboring farms
FLAVOR PROFILE: Balanced, fruity & nutty
PRICE PAID IN 2021: $6.40 per kg for Zorzal "A", $4.50 per kg for Zorzal "B"; average of $5.76 per kg (156%, 80%, and 130% above Fair Trade organic minimum price, respectively)*
FARMGATE PRICE: $2.90 per kg
*For more information and important context on farmgate and producer pricing, please reference our Transparent Trade page.
Reserva Zorzal is a bird sanctuary with conservation at heart. The 1,019-acre private reserve aims to tackle big obstacles like climate change and deforestation through the preservation of one tiny songbird with a chipper voice, the Bicknell’s Thrush, zorzal de Bicknell in Spanish. Nestled inside this avian utopia is Zorzal Cacao, a 130-acre fermentary, and organic cacao farm. Here, conservation meets craft chocolate.
We were first introduced to Zorzal’s delicious cacao when we met Dr. Charles Kerchner at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle. He told us about a bird that he and Dominican entrepreneur, Jesus Moreno, were trying to build a habitat for in the central mountains of the Dominican Republic. One of the ways they planned to fund this endeavor was through a large sustainable cacao farm on the same property. Of course, we had to get involved.
Over seventy percent of the Reserva Zorzal is designated "forever wild” rainforest reserve, a commitment that protects and preserves the most ecologically valuable lands and the habitat of the Bicknell’s Thrush, who winters in the Dominican Republic and summers in North America. Part of the remaining thirty percent is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, primarily the cultivation of high-value crops like fine flavor cacao and macadamia nuts.
Zorzal also serves as a demonstration farm, educating local farmers and employing members of the community. Cacao at Zorzal is grown in agroforestry systems, where cacao trees are planted among other trees and animals in their natural forest habitat. These shade-grown conditions help preserve the habitats of birds like the Bicknell’s Thrush and other wildlife.
While Zorzal produces their own cacao, they also purchase cacao from neighboring farms, which they call Zorzal Comunitario, When purchasing this cacao, Zorzal provides stable and competitive pricing practices. They also provide wet bean pick up services to local farmers where access to main roads and markets can be challenging in a remote mountainous region, and allowing them to streamline and increase the quality of their harvests and connect to the craft market. Beyond cacao, they’ve trained community members in forest and bird monitoring protocols, employing them in their reserve.
With a commerce meets conservation model, Zorzal has an exciting forward-looking vision for a greener future. Their efforts don’t stop at habitat preservation in the Dominican Republic either: they’ve also joined a third-party verified carbon offset project called Plan Vivo. With Plan Vivo, we can purchase carbon credits to help offset the environmental cost of transporting cacao beans to our factory from the Dominican Republic.
Did we mention that Zorzal’s cacao beans are incredibly delicious? They’re perfectly balanced with fruity, nutty, and chocolatey notes so well in sync that they’ve won the respect of artisan chocolate makers all over the world. We work closely with Zorzal on custom fermentation, creating the fruit forward yet classically chocolatey flavor profile of our Pink Sea Salt and Green Tea Crunch bars. As the first private reserve in the Dominican Republic, they are proving that the private sector and private landowners can be partners in conservation, and you can possibly improve the world one chocolate bar at a time. Being this green has never tasted this good.
Read more about Reserva Zorzal here.