Caputo’s Saves a Unique South American Strain of Cacao

Want to drive your taste buds wild and preserve biodiversity at the same time?  Caputo’s Market and Ritual Chocolate have teamed up to create a chocolate bar made from a rare type of wild cacao harvested from the Bolivian jungle — Caputo’s Wild Tranquilidad.


Ritual Chocolate co-owner Anna Seear says it’s been an honor to work on the project which helps preserve the biodiversity of cacao by supporting farmers that are working to preserve rare crops. 

“We want people to see how special these beans are and how worthwhile it is to keep them around,” says Seear.

Although cacao is native to South America, today, seventy percent of the world’s cacao is farmed in West Africa. Since commercial strains are often bred for high yield, chocolate made from these beans is often lacking in flavor and enhanced by other ingredients. In contrast, wild chocolate is made from beans naturally growing in the Amazon rainforest. So, for those of us used to eating Hershey’s and even the fancier-appearing brands from Whole Foods, wild chocolate is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Cacao farming also drives deforestation in nearly every country where it is farmed, and is often linked with poor labor conditions.  

Seear says that when she was first getting into the world of wine and cheese, she was amazed by the incredible variety, but when it came to chocolate, finding high quality was a challenge and options that made you feel connected to the source were lacking. When she and her partner, Robbie Stout, founded Ritual Chocolate, they dedicated themselves to sourcing beans from farmers growing in sustainable ways and paying fair prices. This is their first venture into creating a product with wild cacao.  

Caputo’s Wild Tranquilidad bar got its start nearly a decade ago when Caputo’s donated money to Volker Lehmann, a German agronomist who had discovered a previously unknown type of cacao growing in the Bolivian rainforest. Despite how rare and unbelievably delicious Tranquilidad cacao is, attempts to get the cacao to market have been thwarted by fire, floods, drought, and other challenges. 

Essentially, not enough money was flowing to the farmers to ensure Tranquilidad’s success and this is where Caputo’s comes in. Caputo’s arranged to purchase Tranquilidad’s cacao at top dollar and also give a full dollar back to them for every chocolate bar sold. This is many times more than what a traditional cacao farmer would receive. 

After countless roasting trials and test batches to ensure all the flavors come to the forefront, Ritual Chocolate created what may be one of the best tasting dark chocolate bars of all time. “It’s really such a special chocolate,” says Seear, “I’m so excited to share it.”  

Caputo’s Wild Tranquilidad bar is the second of what Matt Caputo hopes will be an entire line of wild chocolate bars. The first bar in this line is Wild Jurua, a bar made from a rare cacao foraged in Brazil’s Upper Amazon, which Caputo describes as tasting like an “uncharted tropical fruit I’ve never tasted before.” 

Wild Jurua was at risk of being discontinued due to the increasing challenges of bringing the cacao to market, so Caputo offered to pay for the entire harvest upfront and essentially saved this unique strain from disappearing altogether.

Both the Wild Jurua and Wild Tranquilidad bars were created through Caputo’s Preservation Program. Caputo says it’s been frustrating to see how our global food system drives biodiversity loss. 

“We have really wonderful food traditions that are being squeezed out,” he says.

His work with the preservation project is his way of fighting back and helping to preserve these rare crops like Wild Tranquilidad. 

“It’s a big fight but we truly believe that our generation, if not the next generation, can change our entire food system for the better,” he says. 

He does realize that his deli in Salt Lake City may not be able to shift the entire food industry, but at least they can guarantee some tangible victories along the way.   

Seear says that she hopes Caputo’s wild cacao series can help educate people about the problems in the chocolate industry and get people thinking about why it’s worthwhile to think about your chocolate sources. With every Wild Tranquilidad purchase, chocolate lovers can join Caputo’s and Ritual Chocolate in preserving biodiversity, and ensuring that farmers are paid fairly for their work, not to mention tasting something truly extraordinary.

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