The Domori Criollo Project

The Domori Criollo Project

Domori boasts the largest collection of Criollo in the world: a true world heritage in matters of taste and biodiversity, as Domori recovered more than 10 varieties of Criollo cacao.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 — Criollo is an heirloom variety of cacao and its cultivation and use can be traced back to the Mayas and Aztecs. However, over time, the cultivation of this variety was gradually abandoned because of its low yield, and thus, it was almost lost. Today, this rare variety of cacao represents only 0.001% of all the cacao produced in the world. Unlike other cacao varieties, which contain astringent and rough tannins, Criollo is known around the world for its unique creaminess, roundness, and sweetness as it does not contain any tannins. The result is a quality of cocoa unrivaled to others. Through the Criollo Project, Domori has recovered this precious variety of cacao and simultaneously created the largest plantation of its kind in the world, which is located in Venezuela.

In 1994, Domori laid down the foundations for the Criollo Project. After having visited a plantation of Porcelana cacao in Venezuela, Gianluca Franzoni, the founder of Domori, began to gather and document information through growers and research centers, to explore and deepen his understanding of the varieties of Criollo and their characteristics. That year he created the first nursery, collected material, and made grafts to recover the Criollo variety. This is how the relationship with Venezuela was born, which is still alive and firm after 20 years, thanks to the collaboration with the Hacienda San Josè.

The Collaboration with Hacienda San Josè

In Venezuela, Domori has established a 50% joint venture with the famous Franceschi family of the Hacienda San Josè. From this collaboration the Criollo recovery project was born, which was carried out through research, project design, and the construction of the first nurseries, until 2001, the year in which Domori acquired 50% of the plantation. With a total surface area of 320 hectares, of which 185 are cultivated with cacao grafts with a density of 1000 plants per hectare, the plantation represents today a world heritage in matters of taste and biodiversity, as Domori recovered over 10 varieties of Criollo cacao.

How Criollo is selected

​The Criollo cacao is selected directly by Domori, only from Venezuela and other zones of Central South America.

The Relationship with the Producers 

Domori directly selects its producers of raw material and establishes long-term relationships of mutual growth with them. It is important that the cultivators are satisfied and are able to sell their cacao at dignified prices. Since Criollo is a low yield cultivation of cacao, Domori focuses on training, thereby providing cacao farmers with the knowledge needed to increase productivity and maintain high quality standards. The education process is ongoing and is focused both on the botanical aspects and on what happens with the cacao post harvest, i.e. the fermentation process. Domori recognizes quality and guarantees the producers a profitable price.
The only way to make a high quality production truly sustainable, is by paying the farmers correctly: the company adds a fair margin to the price of the international market, thereby covering the production costs and compensating the farmers for their continued effort and devotion to obtaining a product of excellent quality.

The collaboration with associations and NGO’s for the development of alternative crops to coca

The relationships between Domori and cacao producing countries include collaborations with NGO’s, governments and cooperatives to convert coca growing areas into cacao producing areas, thus making the plantation a source of livelihood for local people. 

Domori has worked in Colombia with Asoprolan, a cooperative of coffee and cacao growers in the Montana Santandereana region, where the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes received from the Colombian government the management of land to help farmers leave behind the cultivation of coca, and to turn to the Venezuelan Criollo and Trinitario cacao plant varieties. Domori provided technical and training support, and increased the value of the cacao by placing it on the high-quality chocolate market. This is ultimately how it was possible to guarantee farmers a price that would persuade them to abandon coca in favor of the cacao crop.

The Criollo Cru line, selected by Domori 

Puertomar: This is a recent Criollo variety known as Ocumare 61. In 1998 it was planted in the Domori plantation. It is the first recovered Criollo cacoa in the world, which has been understood and interpreted both in the terroir and in the fermentation of the beans. The Puertomar highlights a giant leap forward in research and in taste. It has notes of cream, spices, almond, and cherry jam, paired with an excellent sweetness and roundness.

Porcelana: A "historic" Criollo for Domori: the adventure with Porcelana began in 1994, with the foundation of the company. Each year, since 1997, Domori has bought a portion of the available harvest from the Andean region and has grafted more plants in the Hacienda San Josè plantation in Venezuela. The Porcelana variety is characterized by an exalted roundness and aromas of bread, butter and jam. 

Puertofino: This Criollo, also called Ocumare 67, was recently recovered and represented a true challenge. By continuing to believe in its potential yield, resistance and in its structure, the result was a success: an aromatic harmony of caramel, tobacco, nuts, papaya, berries, mushrooms, and dates.

Chuao: Chuao is an ancient variety of Criollo cacao which takes its name from the plantation and the Venezuelan peninsula where the seeds were born and subsequently selected throughout the centuries. The beans are completely white and give the chocolate a great sweetness and roundness with notes of cream, honey, and dried fruits.

Canoabo: This Criollo variety is originally from the forest located between the Venezuelan states of Yaracuy and Carabobo. It was saved from extinction and cultivated in the Domori plantation at Hacienda San Jose, in Venezuela. Its notes include cream, dates and almonds, an extraordinary roundness, and great persistence.

Guasare: Guasare is a rare variety and the mother of all Criollo, and has been grown in the Domori plantation in Venezuela since 2002. Among chocolate tasters, it is famous for its finesse, characterized by aromas of dried fruit and honey. This is a perfectly executed Criollo.

Ocumare 77: Ocumare 77 is recognizable by the greater roughness of its cacao pod compared to the other Ocumare varieties. Its cultivation in purity is very rare because the plant often has empty beans inside the fruit. This variety features notes of apricot jam, cream and dried fruit. Excellent roundness and persistence, with low acidity and bitterness.

Criollo 70%: aromas of almond and light caramel, low acidity and excellent roundness.

Criollo 80%: exalting notes of dried figs, dates and raisins, as well as an excellent sweetness and roundness.

Criollo 90%: notes of dried fruit and extraordinary persistence. It is excellently balanced.

Criollo 100%: a sheer mass of different Criollo cocoa varieties, which creates a unique sensory experience. The persistence and balance are perfect, the flavour nuances are endless. It is extraordinary elegant and is perfect for those who want to discover the authentic nature of cacao, without compromises. 

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