The finest chocolate is made from the world’s most original, most flavourful cacao beans. These beans grow in equatorial rainforests (and not, as some people have been led to believe, in Belgium). But the forests that give our planet its greatest biodiversity, its biggest freshwater reservoirs, and it’s critical climate cooling are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Original Beans was founded on the simple idea that what we consume we must replenish. For every Original Beans bar you buy, a local farmer plants a tree that will support the forest and his family. Given the unique ecology of the cacao tree surrounded by forest, chocolate links us all back to the rainforest. If by 2050 we restored worldwide 15% of all rainforests we have destroyed to date, we would rebalance an enormous ecological deficit.
Original Beans' Replenishment Cycle
Active replanting is the best buffer to protect primary rainforests. We establish nurseries, create conservation training programs, and help plant buffer zones around rainforests reserves. New cacao trees generate income for farmers after three years, and diverse tree plantings provide future security. Each Original Beans bar contains a lot number (per 100 trees) which designates the location of new trees. We track the provision of tree seedlings to each remote nursery where the attendant signs off the lots.
When you think “chocolate”, think of the poorest people, tropical subsistence farmers. They are the producers of cacao. Selling Original Beans cacao they may double incomes to thousand dollars per year to allow another child to school or a visit to the doctor. To grow their food, they slash and burn a piece of rainforest every four years. The climate effect from such burning is so large, that if you convinced one smallholder farmer to refrain from it, you and four friends could live, travel and consume without restriction.
Rainforests are the Earth's oldest living ecosystems. These incredible places cover only 6% of the Earth's surface but yet they contain perhaps as much as 3/4ths of the world's plant and animal species. They are the genetic library, the freshwater reservoirs and the lungs of our planet. Annually, rainforest destruction releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than all transport in the world: cars, airplanes, boats. The expansion of human habitat is causing the collapse of biological diversity at a rate comparable to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Cacao originated in the rainforests of Meso- and South America. Early on, someone discovered that from the bitter seed of the cacao tree a product could be made. Picked ripe, thoroughly fermented and dried, and finely ground, cacao would carry the flavours of its original fruit. As the ancient American cultures, the Aztecs, Inkas and Mayas revered the cacao tree and its seeds, each community may have propagated its own local cacao. Today, Original Beans is recovering that distinctiveness of flavour and terroir in each of our chocolates.
Few products offer us consumers such profound participation in the conservation of nature and the betterment of poor peoples' lives than chocolate. All we chocolate lovers have to do is enjoy (much) more and pay (little) more. Good cacao requires hardly add-on ingredients to become the finest chocolate. It deserves to be appreciated like a top wine. As a rule of thumb, a small subsistence farmer earns about 10% of your chocolate's purchase price. Pay more and s/he earns more. Most importantly: you taste more.