Cocooned by the pristine wilderness of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia, the Arhuaco tribe is hard to get to. It takes a rough 8 hours on motorcycle on winding dirt roads – down muddy paths, crossing rivers on corroded wooden rafts – to get to the heart of their land and the communities where we buy an ancient and acutely rare cacao, which the Arhuaco call Businchari, meaning sunrise and new beginning. Into the jungle with the faraway calls of howler monkeys.
Jan, cacao aficionado at Original Beans, was invited by the Arhuaco tribe to visit their villages and meet their spiritual elders in 2015, 2016 and again in the spring of 2017. This is a great honor, since the Arhuaco are genuinely protective of their land due to their sad past with intruding outsiders: conquistadors, settlers, guerrilla groups, paramilitary forces, grave robbers – and most recently tourists with little respect for their customs and sacred sites.
Jan first visited the village of Katansama in 2015, located directly at the Caribbean sea, where he sat down with one of the tribe’s spiritual elders, Mamo Kamilo. Unfolding the story of Original Beans and the tremendous efforts we put into making forest-friendly and climate-positive chocolate from rainforest hotspots across the world, Jan explained that our chocolate wrapping and foil is bio-compostable. This was something that Mamo Kamilo could easily relate to: “ if this is true, you really got it”.
Mamo Kamilo cut the wrapping and foil into small pieces and put it in the soil, whereafter he told Jan that he would hear from him in 3 months time – “if this is really true, we can start working together”, Mamo Kamilo exclaimed. Here, beneath a giant tree, an important and sacred meeting place for the community, our partnership with the Arhuaco tribe began. Since then we have been working hard to make a better living for the Arhuaco by empowering them to grow ultra-premium cacao in harmony with their rainforest home, while preserving their ancient and acutely rare cacao heritage.