Our Sources

Our Sources

Soul Lift Cacao is a social enterprise that exclusively sells cacao grown on small family farms in Latin America.

It's all non-GMO and grown without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

"Single source" in our model doesn't just mean a single country; it means a single farm or village. The map below shows where each cacao variety we carry is grown.

All the cacao is prepared into "paste" in small batches by historic cacao stewards in Guatemala and Mexico. This is different than a lot of products labeled "ceremonial cacao" that are actually made in foreign factories!

Whereas most cacao in the world passes through at least 10 hands from farm to consumer, what you buy from Soul Lift Cacao has passed through only 4 or 5 (e.g., farmer, collective, Soul Lift Cacao, customer).

That means more money stays at the source, with farmers who grow the cacao and collectives who prepare it into ceremonial paste.

Because the cacao is prepared into paste in the country where it grows, our model actually sends an average of 1700% the "fair trade" rate per pound back to the source country.

We think this is lot more equitable (even compared to models that pay 2x the "fair trade" rate) and truly has the power to turn around the exploitation that has happened and continues to happen in the chocolate industry.

Each type of cacao we carry is sourced directly from the group of artisans who make it, through real human relationships that we cultivate. They get a say in what we do, including our labels and packaging.

When buying ceremonial cacao, please make sure that you can trace the sourcing and that the originary people who made it have approved for that manner of sale. Unfortunately there are a lot of black market sales and unverifiable products on the Internet today.

Thank you for supporting Soul Lift Cacao's model of traceability and ethical direct trade. Below is the cacao farm map and more info about our specific sourcing partners.

*WANT TO MEET THE GROUPS WHO MAKE THE CACAO YOU LOVE? CONSIDER JOINING US ON A CACAO & CULTURE TOUR.

(CLICK MAP TO EXPAND)

 

RUK’U’X ULEW (pronounced “Roo-koosh Oo-lay-oo”) - partner since 2018:

Ruk’u’x Ulew women’s collective

Our longest running partner is a women’s collective in San Marcos la Laguna selects the best beans grown at a few native family farms in Alta Verapaz, and roasts the beans over a wood fire.

The women hand-peel the beans in groups, much like the community affair it has been throughout history. They pour intentions into it to be a "soul medicine" for the world.

This collective is owned by Cecilia Mendoza Chiyal, a Mayan woman.

The cacao is sold in our shop under the English translation, Heart of the Earth. You can find both the blocks and pre-ground paste here.

Photo below: Soul Lift Cacao founder Nick Meador with Cecilia, owner of the Ruk'u'x Ulew cacao collective.


LAVALOVE - partner since 2020:

izaias y izabel

Made by husband and wife duo Izaias Mendoza and Izabel Pérez in San Marcos la Laguna, Lavalove cacao is a blend sourced from small farms in one region on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.

Many Mayan women in the village of San Marcos are employed in the production process. Lavalove goes above and beyond to ensure fair payment of workers.

The beans are selected, roasted, and peeled by hand, then ground and poured into blocks. 

Izaias is also a Tata (spiritual leader) who hosts Mayan ceremonies to give people a direct experience of the local traditions.

You can find Lavalove cacao in our shop here.

Photo below: Nick with Izaias at the Lavalove shop in San Marcos la Laguna.


CACAO SOURCE - partner since 2020:

The project sources its cacao from five single-origin farms, making excellent and complex varieties of cacao. We currently sell three of them:
  • Tuk Tuk (grown in Alta Verapaz, eastern Guatemala)

  • Springs (grown in Suchitepéquez, western Guatemala)

 

Cacao Source collaborates with independent farmers who own their land and produce the cacao without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Cacao Source has founded seven Mayan women’s collectives in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, who roast the seeds in small batches, peel each one by hand, and transform them into cacao blocks.

Their core value is to support the local community by providing fair wages and ethical, sustainably grown cacao.

Soul Lift Cacao is the only distributor that gets these varieties roasted over wood fire. Catarina of San Marcos la Laguna (pictured below) leads a collective of women who toast and peel the seeds.
Photo below: Catarina (center) with Nick Meador (L) and Kate Kan (R), Nick's fiancée who has long been an advisor in the business

UTZ K'ASLEMAL (pronounced "Ootz Kahs-lay-mahl") - partner since 2022


Photo above: Ixquik (far left), her mother Rosalía (far right) and others using sacred tobacco in ceremony (photo by Enjoly Mar)

Utz K'aslemal – which roughly translates to "Good living in a useful existence" – is the trade name of a family from Sololá, just north of Lake Atitlán in the western Highlands of Guatemala.

Led by Ixquik (pronounced "Eesh-keek") Lopez Zavala and her mother Rosalía, the family has given Soul Lift Cacao the great honor of being the sole U.S. distributor of their cacao.

Their first offering was La Noche ceremonial cacao (available in blocks and pre-ground bags here). The name refers to the dark, roasty flavor, and an energy that's reminiscent of the night.

In 2023 we helped them release El Cielo cacao as well. It's actually one of the two origins that are blended in La Noche cacao. But El Cielo (Spanish for "the sky") has a lighter profile... almost tropical!

The family uses sacred tobacco in their ceremonies for divination and healing. Rosalía is also a respected midwife in their community who has reportedly delivered 3,000 babies.

And Ixquik is a different kind of community leader, helping to organize cacao farmers in the Alta Verapaz and Quiché regions of Guatemala so that they can stand up to the "coyotes." These are mob-like groups who try to pressure the family farms to sell their cacao at an unfairly low price.

By buying La Noche and El Cielo cacaos, you're directly supporting this movement to empower family farms!

Photo below: After a ceremony with Utz K'aslemal on our Guatemalan cacao tour in March 2023


FUEGO DEL ALMA - PARTNER SINCE 2022

Fuego del Alma is a small group of ceremonial cacao producers in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala. They make both fire-roasted and oven-roasted cacao, and "Fuego" is the wood-fire-roasted option that we carry.

Started by Clarinda, a local Kaqchikel Mayan woman, the project sources seeds from the same farms where Springs cacao is grown in Suchitepéquez. However Fuego cacao is fermented only three days (the average is 4-7), which gives it a profile that is dark and crisp.

We first brought on Fuego cacao as a limited edition, but because of all the appreciation for it we decided to make it a regular part of our product line-up!


OAXACA HOLYMOLE AND CHOCOLATE - PARTNER SINCE 2023

Mitla cacao is grown in Chiapas (southern Mexico) and then the seeds are toasted, peeled, and ground in Tlacolula de Matamoros, in the eastern part of the Oaxaca (pronounced "Wah-hah-cah") Valley. It is predominantly a Zapotec indigenous community, with many of the historical traditions preserved in the cuisine and market culture.

On our visit there we got to meet award-winning chef Eva Aquino who makes chocolate, mole (pronounced "MOH-lay"), and other products by cooking all the ingredients over wood fire and, in many cases, even grinding on a stone metate (pronounced "meh-TAH-tey").

In Mexico, chocolate (pronounced locally as "choh-coh-LAH-tay") is commonly prepared into a drink with cinnamon and lots of sugar. But by special request they have made a 100% pure cacao exclusively for Soul Lift Cacao which we named Mitla after the archaeological site near the Zapotec community where the cacao is prepared.

We're so proud to be working with Oaxaca Holymole and Chocolate, to finally have a cacao source in Mexico, and to continue supporting traditional methods of preparing cacao.


FIND ALL THE CACAO WE CARRY IN OUR ONLINE SHOP!



399
Verified Reviews