Hi, we are Elisa, from Olbia, Italy, and Juan Rafael, from San Salvador, El Salvador.
Together, we founded VAICACAO with the goal of creating minimally processed cacao products, ethically and socially valuable, entirely traceable from the plantation/cacaotal, as well as healthy and in strong contrast to the current global chocolate industry.
Our Cacao Project from El Salvador and Central America
The resilience project, born with the intention of promoting the family small cacaotal of Finca Cuyancúa (Juan Rafael's family estate in El Salvador), where high-quality fine flavor cacao has been cultivated for over a hundred years. Over time, our project has evolved further, involving other cacao producers who share our values of regenerative and sustainable cultivation, respecting both the environment and the dedicated people who work with dedication and skill every day
One of our goals is also to enhance the medicinal properties of cacao by creating minimally processed products. In doing so, we rediscover and value the millennia-old culture around Mesoamerican cacao (part of Central America), lost due to colonialism and subsequent agro-industrial policies that distorted its multiple uses, nutritional properties, and cultural identity.
For us, rediscovering ancient Mesoamerican traditions and culture is fundamental. We want to reconnect people with the cacao tree, raising awareness about the importance of preserving Mesoamerican culture around what is recognized by all native peoples as a sacred plant with high commercial and spiritual value.
We believe that we can contribute to building a better world by overcoming current trade models dictated by the industry. Cacao, for example, should be considered a high-value specialty food, rather than a poorly paid and low-quality commodity.
We are committed to building trusting relationships with people who choose us for more sustainable products, providing them with high-quality products and telling them the story behind each one. Our philosophy is based on environmental and social sustainability, as well as ethical business practices, to ensure a better future for our land and future generations.
SHORT LIST OF INGREDIENTS AND MAXIMUM TRANSPARENCY
Simplicity is among our best qualities, and we are the first short supply chain of Italo-Salvadoran cacao, with a family 2.0 project. This project aims to improve current agricultural processes, making room for new and advanced techniques through the use of technology and modern agricultural knowledge.
VERTICALLY INTEGRATED SHORT SUPPLY CHAIN
Juan Rafael has had a long relationship with cacao since 2009, a cornerstone of our relationship with cacao and the territory. Our project aims to create positive impacts for those who deal with cacao plantations, not only in El Salvador but throughout Central America. We do this through traceability, better communication, the use of modern post-harvest systems, the production of high-quality cacao, and the transmission of higher prices than market prices, including fair trade prices. Once the cacao is imported from El Salvador's plantations, we personally handle the transformation of cacao beans into "cacao nibs," "ceremonial cacao," and "bean-to-bar chocolate." This means that we personally take care of the transformation of cacao beans into final products, which are minimally processed and of high quality.
MESOAMERICA AND SARDINIA MEET
At VAICACAO, we have our cacao processing laboratory in Olbia, Sardinia, where we are the only ones to directly transform cacao beans into exquisite products. Here, we use artisanal techniques to work with cacao, such as stone grinding, allowing us to obtain a unique production batch each time and preserve the natural aromatic notes of each type of cacao. Our products, including ceremonial cacao and bean-to-bar chocolate, undergo no conching process.
OUR MESOAMERICAN ORIGINS and CEREMONIAL CACAO
Mesoamerica is the cradle of cacao. Here, cacao was "adopted and cultivated" for the first time by the Olmecs, an ancient people that thrived in what is now southern Mexico from 2000-1900 B.C. According to scholars, cacao was cultivated more systematically from ancient times in this region, later appreciated by the ancient Maya, who considered it a sacred tree, as did most Native Mesoamerican peoples, as well as today. Our cacao comes from this region (if you want to know more, click here). Cacao also deserves its place and is comparable to wine: each origin, harvest, variety, post-harvest processes, make the taste change, creating a world of aromas and flavors completely different from each other.
Our bean-to-bar chocolate line has a very short list of ingredients. We are talking about two at most three ingredients, of which the third is an ingredient from Sardinian territory or a functional ingredient. We do not add cacao butter, cacao powder, soy lecithin, or artificial flavors. For their creation, we use only unrefined and organic sugars. Industrialization in this sector has forced people to know only the standardization of flavors, and not to understand, appreciate, and distinguish the quality of cacao and less processed chocolates. Artisanal realities like ours ensure that better communication channels are created between producers and consumers, that new flavors are rediscovered, that profits are better distributed throughout the supply chain, and that there is greater attention to environmental sustainability issues, avoiding unfair business practices adopted by large confectionery industries. These practices often involve inhumane working conditions, poor cacao quality, and significant environmental damage.
FOCUS ON WASTE REDUCTION AND UNNECESSARY PACKAGING
Our reality is oriented towards "less waste" in production processes, breaking conventional business models. We pay a lot of attention to packaging and packaging issues to generate less environmental impact and are always looking for new, even better eco-friendly solutions to offer increasingly environmentally sustainable products.
Waste is also always separated and dutifully recycled because in our municipality, separate collection is mandatory. For example, cacao peel waste is recycled into compost thanks to a precious collaboration with a company that deals with this kind of treatment in our territory.