Chocolate Purveyors 8- Juan Aldana
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Juan Aldana the CEO and Co-Founder of Taita Chocolates.
Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?
I have been a lover and addicted to chocolate for as long as I can remember, however, I used to eat (and still do) milk chocolate, industrial one. But my first experience with real chocolate was not so long ago since the dark chocolate offer in Colombia is considered to be new, we had Lindt and other European dark chocolate bars at supermarkets, but bean to bar or craft chocolates are new in our country. The first craft chocolate bars I tried were Colombian brands: Cacao Hunters and Tibito. I still look forward to traveling and trying new bars from other origins and chocolatiers.
What does Taita mean?
In Colombia, the word “Taita” has two meanings: (1) for some indigenous tribes, Taita means “wise man”; (2) in some places in central Colombia Taita means father.
What chocolate makers can be found in your personal chocolate stash right now?
Right now I have bars from different chocolatiers from Colombia and other countries, such as Tibito, Disidente, Manoa.
What separates your chocolates from other bars on the market?
What makes us different is that we control the whole process, from the plantation to the chocolate bar. We give extreme care to our trees at the plantation, recording everything since monthly rainfall, amount of compost used, irrigation, cacaos pods produced per hectare, etc. During harvest season, we select and sort the pods, depending on their state and quality, then we sort the beans by size in order to guarantee the highest quality during fermentation and drying. Most chocolate makers can’t control what happens at the plantation, so that makes us different than the rest.
How did you end up in the world of craft chocolate? What did you do before?
I used to work as a coal trader for a Swiss company, but as I said earlier, I have always been a chocolate lover, so I was involved with cacao during my graduation project and since then I always tried to keep up to date with the cacao and chocolate market.
What does cacao from Puerto Lopez (where Taita plantation is located) offer other cacao doesn’t?
Actually, Puerto Lopez is not a cacao zone. My uncle, who is an agronomist and a cacao expert, about 20 years ago, worked for over three years improving the farm’s soil in order to be able to plant cacao trees. It all started with one hectare and now we have 23 hectares planted. So it’s not what Puerto Lopez cacao can offer, but what happened at our land what’s special.
How can we all help promote craft chocolate and chocolate in general?
To help promote craft chocolate, the best way is getting to know the brands out there and the story they have. Each brand has their own way of approaching the market and of telling their story. For me, craft chocolate brands shouldn’t base their story on how they help farmers or producers, this should be implied and not a difference marker.
Helping promote craft chocolate should mean helping promote a transparent industry, where every brand knows where their cacao is coming from, who is behind the beans and a more than fair price is being paid to the producers. Being a craft chocolate brand, no matter how big or small you are, means you are contributing to the society in a positive way, meaning you are supporting organic plantations and helping the environment; you are paying a prime for your high-quality beans; you are giving knowledge to the people working for and with you; and or doing all of the above, but not for the money of the self benefit, but to contribute to the society is the best way you see fit. Chocolate is love, happiness, harmony, and all the good feelings and sensations, and that is what we are trying to give in both ends of the chain, to suppliers and to customers.
You use the Tree to Bar method, can you walk us through your process of making chocolate Tree to Bar?
We use “Tree to Bar” because by owning the cacao plantation we have control over the whole process. Our plantation started with 1 hectare over 20 years ago, and now it’s about 23 hectares. All of which is handled in an organic way, however, we are not certified. We produce our own fertilizers and herbicides with natural products from the farm, and we have the opportunity to experiment with the plants to optimize production and quality. Every tree, every pod, every bean is supervised and classified in order to guarantee the highest quality.
If you could only eat one chocolate bar for the rest of your life, what bar would it be?
This is a hard question, but I think if I could only eat one chocolate bar for the rest of my life it would be a Taita 72% with cacao nibs.
What does the future hold for Taita Chocolates?
Tricky question, but what we have in mind is to expand the brand to new markets around the world, showing that Colombia is not only famous for our coffee but that our cacao is also one of the best in the world. We are looking for new origins from different regions in Colombia and also looking to produce new and innovative products. Hopefully next year we will bring a couple of surprises for everyone.
The number of Colombian craft chocolate makers is increasing and if you are looking to try a few, we have made a list of five we recommend.
From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you get inside the box!
Each month we will curate 3 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.
Have someone who you appreciate? It also makes as a great gift!
If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate shop, it's a selection of what we have curated in our past boxes.
Too much chocolate? You can pause at any time!
If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.