Trincheras is a small town in Venezuela known for its hot water springs and amazing cocoa. This town grew in the 1700’s around a beautiful big cocoa plantation that according to legend Simon Bolivar (South America’s George Washington) and his army of liberators camped out the night before winning the War of Independence.
Fast-forward 200 years; The Trincheras Hacienda was abandoned and nearly forgotten until Tisano rediscovered its legendary cocoa.
We arrived to Trincheras for the first time after a four hour drive from Caracas. We almost missed the highway exit as it was overgrown by the tropical forest and obiously forgotten.
As we got into the small town of Trincheras, the first thing I saw was the smile of Luis Estrada waiting for us; Luis is the Vice President of the Trinchera’s cocoa co-op, a fourth generation cocoa farmer, his dad was one, his grandfather and his grandfather’s father. As far as his family is concerned farming cocoa is the only way of life. As for Luis he is a visionary using his passion for cocoa he began processing and making artisanal products such as chocolates, cocoa beauty products and even ‘Cocoa Wine.’ I could write a complete blog just on him, he is one of the most interesting men I’ve ever meet and believe me, being part of Tisano’s team you get the opportunity to meet a lot of inspiring and amazing people.
Luis lead our tour into his beloved town, he showed us the small farmer owned farms, introduce us to the oldest of the farmers who told us all about Trincheras traditions and drove us to the old Hacienda. As we got closer my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing, there in front of us was the dilapidated reamains of the famous Hacienda with a chocolate factory dating from the late 1800’s in its backyard, all the machines were brought from England by boat then donkey almost two centuries ago.
This nationalization that meant to empowered Trincheras farmers had the oppossite efect, after the Hacienda and factory where abandom the farmers were left with out a market to sell thier cocoa harvest and crops to.
Many farmers had no choice but to chop out most of their cocoa threes that have been there since colonial times in order to plant easier crops, like oranges, bannanas or lemons. Cocoa farming is NOT easy, it takes a lot of work and many times it’s not well paid so farmers struggle to sell it. Because of this amazing traditions handed down from generation to generation, such as in Trincheras the drying the cocoa beans on clay tiles were about to be lost.
Until Tisano in association with the venezuelan NGO Tierras Vivas stepped in.
Tierras Vivas gave financing, education to formalize a co-op structure, build community collection depot and fermenting and drying areas. Tisano partnered with them to commit to purchase their complete harvest and find a market for this unique cocoa origin. This way ensuring quality, supporting the community and mainting traditions.
Tisano signed contracts promising Trinchera’s farmers that we will buy all their cocoa crops on a higher price than the regular market rate. For us each member of the value chain is an equal partner in ensuring quality and as such with are all stakeholders in one anothers work, communities and families.