It all started with a simple question…
“How would you like to buy a cacao farm in Peru?”
Back in 2013, Michael Caines, a recent Australian transplant to Boulder, Colorado and his native Boulder wife, Jennifer, were longing for a change of pace, but neither of them dreamed they would trade in their successful careers to create artisan, hand-crafted chocolate with a mission. That all changed when Gordon South, Jennifer’s brother and a Peruvian community organizer, called with a once-in-a-lifetime offer to better the lives of the people of the Rio Mayo Valley of upper Amazonia by making single-origin chocolate from native cacao. Intrigued by this vision, Jen and Michael said, “Yes!” and took their first step toward creating not only their own distinctive artisanal bean-to-bar chocolates, but two revolutionary and socially engaged companies: Shanao Cacao and Moksha: CBD Chocolate.
Inspired by the name of the nearby town–Shanao, meaning “New You”– Michael and Jennifer established Shanao Cacao: a non-profit organization based on a new model of growth and commerce known as “regenerative trade.” Simply put, by ensuring that more of the cacao profits returned to the farmers, Shanao Cacao would create an opportunity to develop and encourage environmental stewardship–thereby growing a “new life” for the whole community. In 2014, Michael and Jennifer laid the foundation for Shanao Cacao by forming a new cooperative with local growers and helped to implement organic, bio-dynamic & sustainable farming practices. Over time, this in turn yielded a superior cacao bean, both in quality and flavor, which was valued at a significantly higher price.
The next step was to set a radical, ongoing goal to pay the cooperative members more than the market value of their crop. (Currently, Shanao Cacao farmers are paid $3.00 per kilo or 50% over the market value of cacao; in 2019, the projected return is an additional $2.00 per kilo!) The increased funds substantially improved the local economy and encouraged farmers to continue their wise use of the rich farmland and water resources. The Shanao Cacao team then turned their attention to on-site cacao production, and revised and standardized cacao fermentation & processing–critical to coaxing out and preserving the delicate flavors of their unique crop. Finally, in November 2017, the first pilot project of four tons of single-origin, heirloom cacao beans arrived in Boulder, Colorado. Now the question became: “What do we do with all that cacao?!” Always up for a challenge, Michael enthusiastically turned his attention to learning every aspect of fine-chocolate craftsmanship. From roasting, winnowing and grinding the beans to blending a perfect small-batch bar, he strived to perfect every aspect of the process and bring out the complex, deep and unique flavors of Shanao Cacao products.
In 2019, inspired to pursue her own journey as a female entrepreneur, Jennifer created a new line of CBD bean-to-bar chocolate: Moksha. As a lifelong athlete, she had been using full-spectrum CBD for pain management and better sleep and noticed first hand its healing benefits. Jennifer instinctively knew that the combination of Shanao’s cacao and CBD would be a perfect wellness product. In Sanskrit, Moksha means, “liberation from the cycle of life’s struggles”– an apt metaphor for her own career and lifestyle changes and a fitting name for her new venture. Moksha CBD chocolate is the ultimate artisan chocolate, made with care from an enticing blend of sustainably-grown, single-varietal Peruvian cacao and Colorado slow-crafted CBD oil. Each bite is a taste of bliss!
Jennifer and Michael’s commitment to create responsibly grown, transparently produced and meticulously crafted chocolate products is at the core of both Shanao Cacao & Moksha, and their distinctively flavored products are perfect for the socially & environmentally conscious consumer looking for a unique, deliciously sophisticated treat.