Why is To'ak Chocolate expensive and what makes it unique?
Why is To'ak chocolate expensive?
We purchase cacao directly from the cacao growers we work with in Piedra de Plata, and we pay the highest price per pound of freshly-harvested cacao in the country. As far as we know, we also pay the highest price per pound in the entire world.
The reason we’re happy to pay our cacao growers such a high price is because the cacao trees they manage are among the oldest in the world, and represent one of the last surviving remnants of what is now the rarest cacao variety in the world: Ecuador’s legendary “Ancient Nacional” cacao. By the end of the twentieth century, this historic variety was believed to be extinct. We found a valley where some of the last surviving trees still grow.
Specifically, we pay a farmgate price that is 200% to 700% above the local price for “wet cacao.” Most cacao growers in Ecuador have no other choice but to sell their unfermented cacao to local intermediaries who typically pay $25 for a 100-pound sack. We pay $75-200 per sack of wet cacao, depending on the age of the trees that the cacao was harvested from—with the oldest trees fetching the highest price.
We also exclusively produce limited editions of chocolate, with each bar packaged—in the case of our Origin bars—in handcrafted hardwood boxes, each of which is individually engraved with the bar number. Each bar also comes with tasting utensils and a booklet that tells the story behind this chocolate and includes a tasting guide. Details like this require a high degree of skilled and meticulous labor.
We also invest part of our earnings into a long-term project to preserve an ancient heirloom cacao variety currently on the brink of extinction.
For a deeper dive into why our chocolate is priced the way it is, feel free to check out: “Why the Most Expensive Chocolate in the World?”
What makes it unique?
- Our chocolate is sourced from the rarest cacao variety in the world ("Ancient Nacional"), previously believed to be extinct.
- We've made it our mission to preserve and restore Heirloom Nacional cacao with our rainforest conservation partner Third Millennium Alliance.
- We produce chocolate from tree to bar. Not only do we make chocolate, we also cultivate cacao, we ferment and dry it ourselves, and produce the final product - all in Ecuador, the native origin of cacao.
- We produce extremely limited editions, often as little as 100 bars per edition.
- We make single origin Ecuadorian dark chocolate like a French winemaker produces vintage wine. This means that we exclusively produce single origin, single harvest chocolate that is aimed at expressing the unique terroir of the appellation in which it is grown.
- We age our chocolate the way whisky producers age their whisky, using a variety of different barrels sourced from around the world, such as Cognac, Laphroaig Whisky, Sherry, Sauternes, Don Juio Tequila, etc. We also use different types of Ecuadorian wood and other vessels that are carefully selected for their extractable aroma compounds. To’ak is the first tree-to-bar chocolate maker that comprehensively applies this principle to chocolate.
- Our roots are in rainforest conservation. To’ak was born from a rainforest conservation project that co-founder Jerry Toth started in Ecuador in 2007. Through his nonprofit foundation Third Millennium Alliance, he helped create a forest preserve along the coastal mountain range. It was here that he began cultivating cacao trees and making chocolate by hand in a thatched bamboo house secluded in the middle of the forest.
- We take our social and environmental impact seriously, starting with paying cacao growers the highest prices in the industry through an intimate direct trade relationship. We've built a technology platform for cacao traceability, we upcycle cacao byproducts to create additional revenue streams for farmers, among other several other initiatives.
- Our packaging is a work of art. Our Origin bars are packaged in responsibly-sourced handcrafted hardwood boxes that are individually engraved with the bar number. The box includes hand-made tasting utensils and an illustrative booklet that tells the story behind each edition and provides a guide to dark chocolate tasting and pairing. Our Signature bars apply this same attention to artful design, but with a minimalist touch.
- As members of the “purist” wing of the industry, To’ak specializes in “two-ingredient” chocolate, using only cacao and cane sugar—both of which are organic. The small addition of cane sugar is akin to a few drops of water added to a glass of whisky—it softens the inherent bitterness just enough to reveal the finer, more subtle flavor characteristics of their unique and extraordinarily rare cacao.
- To’ak chocolate has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, Wine Spectator, Fortune Magazine, The Guardian, Robb Report, Huffington Post, Vice Magazine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, TV channels such as BBC, CNBC, CNN, and FOX, and over a hundred other publications across six continents.
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