Granja Luker, set up by Casa Luker in 1962, is a not-for-profit cocoa research facility in Colombia between Medellin and Cali (if you’ve ever watched Narcos… you’ll know). There are only two cocoa research facilities in the world and we were lucky enough to visit this one and see all the awesome work going on.
The Granja Luker research facility has two aims.
RESEARCH cocoa and create better strains to improve cocoa production.
EDUCATE cocoa farmers from all over Colombia so they can improve their yield, improve their profits and improve their lives.
IMPROVE COCOA PRODUCTION THROUGH RESEARCH
Aim: To maximise the robustness of the cocoa crop, maximise quality and flavour, increase resistance from diseases and make get farmers earning more.
The Forrestero tree is the most sturdy of all the cocoa trees but tastes a bit ‘meh’. The Criollo tree produces cocoa beans with the best flavour but is harder to grow. SO the ideal bean has the growth characteristics of the Forrestero with the flavour of the Criollo. Hmmm tricky…
The majority of farmers, who need to make a living, opt to grow the Forastero. Minimum output for maximum yield. BUT this means loads of pretty average beans are being grown. Now I don’t know about you but we like our chocolate tasty AF.
So what’s the solution?
They graft/cross pollinate the trees of course! A little sliver of the Criollo tree is grafted with the stem of the Forrestero. This is then planted and grows in to this hybrid tree that 3-4 years later produces a cocoa pod known as the Trinitario. The Trinitario bean is what makes up our SNAPS and our Crunchy Almond Butter bar.
This process is being constantly developed and improved; there are acres of Clonal Gardens on the research facility with rows and rows of trees each a slightly different hybrid. One day we’ll get the most super of beans that the world has ever seen!
Aim: To educate farmers so they can make better cocoa and make more dollar.
The majority of cocoa in Colombia comes from independent farmers. Casa Luker want everybody involved in producing cocoa to grow better and more productive crops whether they are producing beans for Casa Luker or not. The Granja Luker agricultural school educates them in how to do this.
Open to everyone
Anyone in the country can go and free meals and transport are provided. The school used to be free but now, at the farmers request, costs $10 a week. So far, since 1962, Granja Luker has trained 30,000 farmers in cocoa production.
At the end of the training programme?
The farmers can buy a pre-grafted cocoa plant for $1 to take back to grown on their independent farm or buy a branch from the Criollo tree for 10 cents and with the knowledge they now possess go and graft their own robust, great tasting cocoa tree and form their own plantation. Meaning they can increase their profit hugely as they can command a higher price for a better bean.
Pretty awesome eh? We think so and that’s why we are uber proud to source our single-origin chocolate from Casa Luker.