The Story of Diogo Vaz Roça Cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe (Part 1)
In the enchanting world of Cacao, where every bite is a moment of joy, there exists a deeper, richer tale behind the sweet indulgence we all adore. It’s not just about the velvety texture or the heavenly aroma; it’s about the journey of Cacao, the land it springs from, and the hands that nurture it.
At PlusCacao, our story began with a passion for sharing the magic of pure Cacao, but it soon intertwined with the heritage of people and their land, where the roots of the Cacao run deep.
When we embarked on the PlusCacao journey, little did we know that understanding the heritage of Cacao would lead us to the heart of São Tomé and Príncipe. We learned that Cacao isn’t merely an ingredient; it’s a lifeline for the people who cultivate it, a tradition passed down through generations, and a symbol of hope for smallholder farmers.
Here is a story about PlusCacao partners in São Tomé and Príncipe.
••• History Unveiled •••
The story of São Tomé and Príncipe’s Cacao industry is a tapestry woven with threads of resilience and determination. In 1822, Cacao plants from Brazil found their new home on the island. By 1880, the Diogo Vaz Roça was born, becoming a beacon of Cacao production. However, when São Tomé and Príncipe gained independence in 1975, the Cacao industry faced a downturn due to the division of land into small parcels without adequate state support. This fragmented approach led to a decline in Cacao production, reducing output to less than 1,000 tons annually. The lack of cohesive support and resources hindered the industry’s growth, creating a challenging environment for Cacao farmers on the islands. Yet, the spirit of rejuvenation was alive, thanks to the visionaries, like the ones at Kennyson Group.
Jean-Rémy Martin and Eneko Hiriart, the torchbearers of this revival, sought to uplift the local farmers, reintroducing sustainable practices to the land. They didn’t just cultivate Cacao; they sowed the seeds of change, transforming São Tomé and Príncipe’s Cacao landscape.
••• The Diogo Vaz Roça Saga •••
Diogo Vaz, the historic plantation nestled between the Pico de São Tomé and the Atlantic Ocean, became the epicenter of their efforts. With 642 acres of lush land, 150,000 Cacao trees were planted, creating a haven where biodiversity thrived alongside Cacao plants. Here, 250 dedicated souls work harmoniously, creating a community where Cacao wasn’t just a commodity but a shared dream.
Through meticulous reforestation and organic practices, they embraced the heritage of Amelonado Cacao, Trinitario, and Catongo varieties. Every pod that appeared, every leaf that rustled, echoed a commitment to preserving the land and supporting the people who tended to it. Diogo Vaz Roça stood as a testament to the harmony between tradition and innovation.
••• The Magical Process: From Tree to Bar •••
In the heart of this picturesque plantation, the magic unfolded. The journey from Cacao pod to the exquisite pure Cacao liquor (aka. mass) was a labor of love, guided by experienced hands. Harvesters delicately plucked each pod, ensuring the integrity of the tree. The beans, after a careful fermentation process under banana leaves, underwent the artistry of grinding, mixing, and molding.
Through these steps, a flavorful Cacao liquid emerged, a testament to the essence of São Tomé and Príncipe’s soil and the dedication of its people. The Cacao blocks encapsulated the spirit of the island, ready to be shared with the world.
••• Supporting the Farmers: A Noble Cause •••
This journey was not just about crafting delectable Cacao but mostly about empowering the local farmers. Cooperatives like Diogo Vaz Roça became the backbone of this noble endeavor. Through these alliances, knowledge was shared, skills were honed, and support extended far beyond the fields. The aim was not just sustainability but thriving communities where every member felt valued.
(For a comprehensive understanding of the Cacao cooperatives and their pivotal role in supporting smallholder Cacao farmers, please explore further information HERE >>>)
In the midst of global challenges and a changing climate, the partnership between smallholder farmers and chocolate enthusiasts became a beacon of hope. In the delicate balance between production and profitability, São Tomé and Príncipe’s Cacao industry emerged as a shining example of what collaboration could achieve.
••• To Be Continued •••
Join us in the second part of our tale, where we explore the cultural richness of São Tomé and Príncipe, the significance of preserving biodiversity, and the joy of savoring a piece of history in every bite. Together, let’s continue this magical journey, celebrating not just the magical taste of Cacao but the enduring spirit of the people behind it.
All the photos featured in this article are posted courtesy of www.diogovaz.pt