Reise mit uns in eine der ursprünglichsten Kakaokulturen der Welt: in die Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexiko, in das Gebiet des Selva Zoque. Die Region gilt als die Geburtsstätte des Kakao, denn der Kakao wird von den dort lebenden Tzotzil- und Zoque- Stämmen seit über 4000 Jahren angebaut, kultiviert und konsumiert. Die alten Zoque und ihre Vorfahren – die Olmeken – erfanden hier das für sie heilige Getränk aus einer ganz besonderen Waldfrucht, die sie „Kakaw“ nannten. Doch nicht nur das, die Region gehört außerdem zu den größten und ökologisch bedeutendsten Regenwaldgebieten Mexikos. Kein Wunder, dass wir hier ein Kakao Projekt gefunden haben, dass sich nicht nur dem ökologischen Anbau von feinstem Edelkakao widmet, sondern vor allem auch den Regenwald schützen möchte. Wie? Das erfährst du in diesem Beitrag.

A vision is born

In the spring of 2014, two friends were exploring the old cocoa country and rainforests of Tabasco and Chiapas in southern Mexico: Hugo is an agronomist and his friend Anders works for the sustainable chocolate company Original Beans. Together they visited the local farmers and cocoa farmers of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and tasted the local cocoa varieties. The indigenous tribes of the region have been cultivating cocoa for their own needs for thousands of years, as the plant is considered a medicinal plant. They can hardly cover their living expenses with the cultivation and sale of their cocoa, because they cannot keep up with the prices of industrial cocoa from monocultures. Hugo and Anders want to change that because they are enthusiastic about the quality of the cocoa beans. A common vision is emerging more and more: They want to share this exquisite cocoa with the world, reforest the rainforest and help the local cocoa farmers. The project Agrofloresta Mesoamericana is born, in which the finest fine cocoa is produced in cooperation with the indigenous tribes and at the same time fallow areas are reforested in order to protect the biodiversity of the plants and animals of the rainforest.

The origin of Tabasqueño cocoa

This southern Mexican fine flavor cocoa, commonly referred to as Tabasqueño, is a wild crossing of an old, millennia-old Criollo cocoa from the Olmec, Mokaya and Mayan times and the Amelonado cocoa from the Amazon, which was produced around 1900 by a French family was brought to the coast of Tabasco. Here, in the rainforest-covered highlands of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, in the Selva Zoque, wild hybridization has been taking place for more than 100 years. The Sierra Madre region is the only place in the world that can be credited with more than 4000 years of uninterrupted cocoa cultivation and consumption. The region is a hotspot for flavorful cacao varieties selected and perfected by different civilizations.

The Selva Tabasqueño is classified as Acriollado cocoa and thus reflects an old local landrace. The mother trees of this rare cocoa variety are now over 100 years old and still intact.

The properties of Tabasqueño cocoa

The Selva Tabasqueo cocoa bean has a very harmonious profile and intoxicates the senses with its spicy notes of chili, cocoa, sweet fruits and a hint of biscuit. The flavors of Selva Tabasqueño cocoa and its ancient genetic traits and spicy-velvety character make this cocoa variety unique in the world. The cocoa is perfect as ceremonial cocoa for ritual cocoa consumption. Compared to other types of cocoa, we immediately noticed how intense this 100%ige cocoa drink tastes without becoming bitter. This is not only due to the quality of the bean, but also to the sustainable cultivation of the cocoa in agroforestry systems. Wallo & I would describe its taste as deep, velvety, soft, creamy, complex and harmonious. It is simply a great pleasure to drink this cocoa slowly and consciously and to feel the warmth.

We meet the project

Agrofloresta Mesoamericana

It was a rush job, as is so often the case with Wallo and me, when we jumped into our rental car at 4 a.m. to drive from San Christobal de las Casas, over the mountains of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, to Teapa in Tabasco . The ride was impressive and magical. The beautiful, dense green, wildly fragrant, mountainous and rocky landscape of the Sierra Madre of the Chiapas caught us off guard and literally blew us out of our seats. Several times we had to stop, marvel, stare, smell, marvel at the waterfalls and breathe in the earthy, mineral scent of the fresh mountain rainforest. We didn't have much time, so we jumped back into our car seats in a hurry to continue driving. In Teapa we would like to get to know a very special project that not only produces high-quality, ceremonial fine flavor cocoa, but is also dedicated to the reforestation of forests, the support of local farmers and ecological, chemical-free agriculture. After a 6-hour drive we reach the tropically hot town of Teapa and finally meet Hugo, a cocoa farmer and economist, as well as a specialist in ecological agroforestry and founder of the project Agrofloresta Mesoamericana.

support of the indigenous people

One of the main aims of the project is to help the people of the Zoque and Tzotzil tribes who live in the rainforest area between the provinces of Chiapas and Tabasco. The hard-working cocoa farmers are self-sufficient, ie they grow many other foods in addition to cocoa in order to feed their families. The indigenous families have lived through decades of low cocoa prices and poverty, not least because of the low prices of industrial cocoa cultivation. Today, Hugo and his team train the cocoa farmers on the topics of cocoa cultivation in ecological and sustainable mixed cultivation, which increases the value of the cocoa. In addition, the project supports the farmers in selling their cocoa at fair prices. The farmers are offered better prices for their cocoa and they save themselves work through the direct trade supply chain initiated by the project, which guarantees high and stable cocoa prices for the farmers. In this way, the life of the local population is improved in the long term as cocoa prices rise again. The Zoque and Tzotzil tribes have traditionally cultivated the ancient cocoa varieties for thousands of years, which is a ceremonial cocoa of aromatically unique quality. Three villages are now participating in the sustainable cocoa project Agrofloresta Mesoamericana, The Tabasqueno cocoa of our Mellow Magic Cacao is sourced directly from their farmers.

Get to know the farmers and the people behind our cocoa and click through the slides:

Environmental protection through cocoa cultivation

The project is not just about preserving rare fine flavor cocoa varieties and supporting the small farmers living there, but also about protecting biodiversity in the rain forests. The primeval forests of the Zoque and Tzotzil tribes in the Selva Zoque disappear. Cocoa projects like this raise the local cocoa price and actively convert cleared pastureland back into traditional mixed forests. While zoque and tzotzil farmers can improve their livelihoods by selling cocoa, growing in mixed forests also protects endangered animals such as spider monkeys and jaguars. The cocoa mixed forests serve as buffer zones to the border of the primary rainforest areas. Of the tabasqueno- Cocoa is grown in tree nurseries and then planted out in the various cocoa forests. In 2019 alone, 62 hectares of barren grazing land were planted and converted into species-rich mixed forests with a rich flora and fauna. This work promotes biodiversity, soil health and carbon sequestration.

The painting shows the values of the Agrofloresta Mesoamericana project: The Maya sign below stands for the origin, for the old traditions and the preservation of the cultural heritage. The monkey stands for the protection of endangered animal species. The cocoa fruit for the love of the sacred plant and its ecological cultivation. The farmer stands for the local people who want to support the project and the flower stands for the love for nature and for Mother Earth, who nourishes us all.

From harvest to bean - an overview

  • Surname: Selva Tabasqueno
  • Origin: Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Northern Chiapas and Southern Tabasco Province, Mexico
  • Variety: “Tabasqueño” Acriollado landraces. The beans are called tabasqueño.
  • Flavor: Mild and harmonious. Notes of spices, cocoa and sweet fruits
  • Rarity: Very small harvest quantities & manual work
  • Harvest: September-November
  • Terrain: Forest-covered mountainsides down to lush plains. Cacao grows in an agroforestry system with a high biodiversity including annato, chilies, breadnut and allspice

fermentation and drying

The wet cocoa beans with their sweet pulp are bought directly from the villages of the indigenous tribes and then taken to the fermentation plant. This is where fermentation, gentle drying, quality control and taste analysis take place. The beans usually ferment in Tabebuia wooden boxes for five to six days. The sugar content is measured upon receipt. The temperature of the beans and the atmospheric conditions are constantly monitored. The beans are dried on elevated trays and slow sun drying takes place in tunnels.

  • degree of fermentation: 90 % on average of fermented and semi-fermented beans
  • Humidity: 7,5 %
  • bean size: 107g / 100 beans
  • Certifications: Organic farming & fair trade

Follow the process from harvest to bean yourself and click through the slides:

Thanks to Agrofloresta Mesoamericana

Thank you that the project is changing the world positively bit by bit through its work. Our very special thanks also go to Hugo, who guided us through the production facility and the cocoa farm, sharing his vision and deep thoughts with us, as well as images and basic data.

We hope with the sale of ours Mellow Magic Cocoa to be able to support the project and Hugo's vision by bringing the diverse world of cocoa into your home - so that you will love it as much as we do.

Do you have any questions about our cocoa or the project?
Feel free to contact us!

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    Come with us on a journey

    The Mellow Magic Shop is a small, traveling family business that wants to share the treasures of the world & their stories with you. Here you can buy high-quality fine flavor cocoa from sustainable projects, as well as support special craftsmanship - from direct, fair trade - with your purchase.