As a culinary staple, cacao has been important in the production of chocolate for thousands of years. In Latin American culture, the indigenous people of humid forest regions have always eaten raw cacao as a nutritional supplement during long days of working in the fields, harvesting, or hunting. Its rich flavour and aroma made cacao an appetizing fruit for both children and adults living in the tropical rainforests. Growing up, cacao already played a huge role in Sandra Candela’s life as drinking pure chocolate was a part of her family’s morning ritual.
Originally from Colombia, Sandra moved to Costa Rica in 2003, pursuing her lifelong dream to care for the forests of the world, and continuing her postgraduate studies in agroforestry. She conducted several studies on cacao and got to know Talamanca’s indigenous BriBri and Cabécar communities for the first time. In Talamanca, cacao is grown in agroforestry systems, thus it involves the protection of rainforests.
One of her expertise has been the quality of cacao.
On top of being professionally trained, Sandra has undertaken various courses surrounding cacao tasting with the Department of Food Chemistry of the National University of Costa Rica. She has also participated in cacao tasting projects with indigenous women in Talamanca.
Wanting to do more to contribute to her community and share her love for forests, health, and cacao, Sandra started Rawö Cacao in 2018. Ever since, she has worked passionately to share the benefits of the superfood with the world and promote environmental consciousness. Sandra now lives in Puerto Viejo with the most precious thing in her life, her daughter Sara, and works as a Spanish teacher.
For the last 4 years, Sandra has worked as a Spanish as a second-language teacher in two different schools located in Puerto Viejo de Limon, Talamanca. Her experience teaching Spanish has been the bridge between her products and meeting her favourite new clients, her students. Sandra's classes are very creative and full of visual, auditory and conversational resources on nature, culture and current affairs. The online classes have the characteristic that they are very personalized and use diverse local, national and international resources to teach you to speak fluently.
Through various collaborators such as Emelie Gagnon and Oliver Pakasa, other many collaborators and with the support of various national (MAG, UCR, UNA, PROCOMER) and international institutions (CATIE, EARTH,IICA) this micro-enterprise has been growing in different regions of Costa Rica and abroad.
Recently we have undertaken the production of semi-processed cacao products suitable for export, and have benefitted from significant institutional and social network support.
What Makes Us Unique!
We, at Sandra's Cacao, are cacao professionals who strive to highlight the value of raw cacao. In our microenterprise, we extract cacao directly from the pod. We evaluate the quality of the pulp and control the temperature and conditions during the drying process, thereby preserving the flavor, aroma and original nutrients, setting us apart from traditional dried cocoa.
We work with small local organic farmers buying fruits at a higher price than conventional compensation to contribute to the improvement of livelihoods in the Talamanca region. We choose to invest and source our products from Talamanca because we are experts on the subject and historically, it has been the most important region of cacao production in Costa Rica. We are involved with many local indigenous and non-indigenous cacao producers through the APPTA (Asociación de Pequeños Productores de Talamanca), and ACAPRO (Asociación Campesina Productores Orgánicos de Talamanca).