We’ve been looking for a really great chocolate company in Boulder, and we’ve found Shanao Cacao (soon to be re-named Moksha), which exceeds our high standards not only for the quality of their delicious, handmade, small-batch chocolate, but also for their ‘Regenerative Trade’ farm-to-bar business model.
Australian-born Michael Caines owns Shanao Cacao with his Boulder native wife, Jen. They operate out of a small workshop in Boulder, where I visited Michael and helper Rob while they hand-wrapped the bars.
Their story: When Jen’s brother offered them the chance to purchase a small cacao plantation in Peru, they decided to take the leap. The farm-to-bar process is very labor-intensive and the Caines’ didn’t want to exploit the farmers. For that reason, Shanao is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, eliminating the middle-man and enabling them to pay plantation workers about twice the average in Peru, far more than typical ‘Fair Trade’ prices. Their company also provides resources and education in the off-season so farmers aren’t forced to “slash and burn” the rainforest to grow corn for money, as they now have a year-round support system through the cacao business. The company has vastly improved quality control (in Peru, they’d found that there were no rules for quality) by creating technology to track the crop and growing conditions, building fermentation chambers, and drying racks. They are involved in facilitating every stage of the process, including getting the crop from the small mountain community of Shanao to port on the coast. Michael returns to Peru every summer to harvest cacao with the farmers during its busiest season.
Shanao launched their line of fine dark chocolate bars about a year ago. The prized Criollo beans give them a rich, fruity, nuanced flavor that stands alone and also goes well with the salt, dried raspberry and other toppings they use. Their line of CBD-infused chocolates are equally delicious.