Insight into the roots of Venezuelan cacao: a journey with Karl Schuler

We live responsibility from origin to enjoyment around the world. Here is Karl Schuler's travelogue about the roots of Venezuelan cacao in our Maracaibo couvertures.

A few facts about the origin of Venezuela

Venezuelan cacao, the centrepiece of our Maracaibo couvertures, is unquestionably one of the finest in the world. It is native to the nutrient-rich soils of the Andean foothills in the north of the country and is surrounded by lush, humid vegetation. Its exceptional quality makes it extremely sought-after and demand is therefore correspondingly high.

Insight into my field of activity at Felchlin

As part of the team in Felchlin's quality laboratory, I test daily the raw materials and cacao beans from different countries, I also share insights into our comprehensive quality testing process during company tours and explain the different steps from harvesting to cutting, testing and sensory evaluation.

How did it come about that you were given the opportunity to travel to Venezuela to explore the origins of our cacao?

The opportunity to personally explore the origins of our cacao arose from my desire to deepen the connection between my daily work and the origin of the product. Thanks to the generous support of the management, I was able to travel to the region of origin of our fine cacao together with our CEO and the buyer.

What were your expectations for the trip to Venezuela?

I was eagerly anticipating to be able to meet and become acquainted with both our partners and the local cacao farmers, exploring the cacao growing areas and experiencing Venezuela's unique environment.

You visited the «Hacienda San José», which belongs to our long-standing partner Casa Franceschi. Tell us more about this visit.

I was deeply impressed by the warm welcome and the friendly atmosphere we received during our visit. Particularly noteworthy was the high level of quality awareness that was palpable among every single cacao farmer. They totally understand the fundamental importance of high-quality raw materials for the production of a first-class product and shoulder this responsibility with pride.

How are the cacao farmers and their families that you met in Venezuela doing?

In my opinion, the cacao farmers and their families are prospering. For the most part, they are self-sufficient and live in the midst of fertile soils on which fruits that are unfamiliar to us thrive abundantly. Despite their simple living conditions, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for Felchlin's support, particularly relating to healthcare through the «Salud sur del lago» project. I was similarly touched by the satisfaction they showed and the pride that they take in their work.

What was it like for you to visit the place of origin of this unique raw material while you normally work in Felchlin's quality laboratory and test the cacao we buy to make our couvertures?

This was an incredibly valuable and grounding experience for me. It made me realise how important it is to understand the value chain from start to finish. This realisation helps me to remain humble even in challenging situations and to use the contented cacao farmers as a clear role model and a source of inspiration when things don't go smoothly.

What was your personal highlight?

A personal highlight was telling the cacao farmers in a remote area that 20 years ago we were awarded the title of the world's best dark couverture with the Maracaibo 65% couverture, which is made from the cacao beans that come from their region. The farmers' shining eyes and mischievous smiles showed me how proud they are of their work and their long-standing collaboration with Felchlin. It was a touching picture that I will never forget.

Another highlight was the great diversity of the environment and the impressive splendour of the flowers in Venezuela.

How does this trip help you in your day-to-day work at Felchlin?

The trip to Venezuela has changed my view of my work at Felchlin forevermore. It has given me an even deeper passion for the product and its origin. I am now able to tell employees and visitors even more about cacao in the country of origin and confirm that there is a great passion through from the origin to the end producer to create our fantastic products.

I would furthermore like to thank the Felchlin company for allowing me to have this unforgettable experience.