Location: Guatuso and Upala, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Tasting Notes: Cocoa, Caramel, Grapefruit
Varieties: Trinitario hybrid
Fermentation Style: 5-6 day ferment in wooden boxes
Drying Style: Raised wooden beds
Elevation: 459 feet
Soil Type: Volcanic
Harvest Season: June to July & November to December
The Name Maleku comes from a population native to the northern plains of Costa Rica, between the Arenal Volcano and Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua. Nahua Cacao works closely with 240 smallholder cocoa farmers in the area, sourcing pods from native trees, which tend to be a mix of Trinitario and Criollo. Many of the plantations are quite remote, the oldest of which lie along the banks of rivers that flow into Lake Nicaragua. The region’s history is so entwined with cacao that there is even a local legend among the Maleku tribe of small, elf-like people called Carrache that live along the river and eat cacao from the trees.
Nahua Cacao was founded in San Jose, Costa Rica in 2011 to promote and source premium quality cacao from indigenous communities in northern Costa Rica. While there are lots of native cacao trees in the region, Nahua found that there was a lack of knowledge of best practices in cacao tree management and harvesting, and limited access to resources. Since their founding, Nahua has implemented a Cacao Renovation Program which helps smallholders increase productivity, access financing, reach international markets, and preserve the natural environment of the region. Nahua sources top-quality cacao from the producers in their network and uses a local, centralized fermentation facility to ferment and dry the beans.