Tree to Bar
There’s a fascinating history of cacao growing in the Bahia state of Brazil. Cacao was brought to the region around 1746, as a new crop to be farmed. However, cacao growing is a tough gig and many farmers there said, no thanks, and instead grew sugar cane, a much easier crop to farm.
About 80 years later a group of pioneer farmers headed into the Mata Atlantic Forest to plant cacao seeds. Working for themselves, not land owners, their hard work and persistence resulted in cacao becoming the most important crop in Bahia.
In 1989, Witches Broom, a disease that rots cacao trees, hit the Bahia region hard and fast, destroying most of the crops. There are rumours about how this disease got to Bahia, as it is not native to the area, and there was much speculation about who was responsible and for what reason. The result? Brazil went from being a chief exporter of cacao to an importer instead. Disastrous to say the least.
But cacao saw a recovery in Bahia, due to the farmers' decision to use the Cabruca system to cultivate the trees. This system is the practice of planting cacao trees under the shade of other larger trees, the best place for cacao trees to flourish. The Bahia Atlantic Forest is the perfect environment for this, with its abundance of native hardwood and fruit trees.
What does this have to do with Baianí Chocolate? A few things.
For starters, the owners, Juliana and Tuta Aquino are both descendants of families who have been cultivating cacao in this region since the late 18th century. Both were born in the region but each moved away for a period of time to pursue careers in music. (I think I have said this before, but I am always intrigued by the careers that chocolate makers have had before they become chocolate makers!)
Juliana and Tuto reconnected, got married and went to New York to live and pursue their music careers. Years later, on a visit home to Brazil, they made the decision to stay. They went form musicians to farmers! Now they cultivate cacao on their farm in Potumuju Valley, in Arataca Bahia, using the agro-forestry Cabruca system and modern practices to produce high quality cacao. The cacao which they in turn use to produce their chocolate bars.
Juliana returned to school to study culinary arts and is the chocolate maker at Baianí. So being the farmers and the makers, from cultivating cacao to producing craft chocolate, they are “tree-to-bar” producers.
Growing their own cacao and using local Brazilian ingredients and recipes, the Baianí bars are a true reflection of Brazilian foods and tradition. Bars like the Caipirinha, inspired by a favourite drink in Brazil, and Orange Zest, a traditional chocolate bar combo made with real oranges that grow in abundance in Brazil, as well as Lime and Chili Nibs, that represent the profound culinary tradition of chili in Bahia cuisine, these bars will take to you on a tasting journey to Brazil!