Harris & James Cacao Bean Origins and Traceability - Madagascar

Home to what is considered the world’s best cacao, Madagascar, a former French colony, has much to shout about. Its fantastic cacao is used to make our unique tasting bean to bar Madagascan chocolate. Madagascar is actually the fourth largest island in the world and home to a huge diversity of wildlife (most of which cannot be found anywhere else on Earth), mountain ranges, deserts, jungles and vibrant cities. Add breath-taking sandy beaches, diverse culture and history, and delicious local cuisine and you’ll start to realise why this fascinating destination is near the top of many bucket lists.

Cacao was first introduced into Madagascar in the 1800s, originally cultivated on the east coast near to a town called Anivorano. Almost all cacao grown on the island comes from an area approx. 50km in radius and represents less than 1% of the world’s cacao production. Despite this, it’s widely argued that some of the best single-origin chocolate on Earth is produced in Madagascar, where the country’s
ecosystem gives the cacao unique flavours and aromas.

Origin Spotlight


The cacao from the Ambohimena plantation is one of the eight cacao farms of the MAVA Estate in the Sambirano Valley and was awarded Cacao of Excellence in 2019. It is a Criollo Trinitario fine flavour cacao with chocolaty, nutty caramel aromas and notes of dark red fruits with a hint of wood. The cacao is very mild and has no bitter notes. With a warm, humid micro-climate and rich volcanic soil,
the Sambirano Valley is the ideal place for growing cacao. The valley also benefits from cyclone protection from the Tsaratanana mountains.

The MAVA plantation, spanning a total of 635 hectares, was purchased in 2015. This former state-owned property is partly owned by Chocolatery Robert, an entirely Malagasy (a native or inhabitant of Madagascar) operation owned by the Ramanadraibe family. The family actively contributed to the post-colonial economic and industrial revival of the island and have been chocolate making for four generations. One of the members Madam Hanta Rajaonera leads the farmers on the plantation. All cacao trees are grown organically in a traditional agroforestry system. Besides managing their own plantation, MAVA has partnered with local smallholder producers in the area. Their fresh beans are collected and fermented and dried at MAVA’s post harvesting facilities. This ensures a high quality and consistent product.
  • Variety: dominantly Trinitario varieties, adapted to the Malagasy climate
  • Flavour: aromatic round profile, low in chocolaty level, with alternating flavours of dried fruit, nuts and sweetness, fresh red fruits and spices, and a long finish with hints of mint
  • Fermentation: 6 days wooden boxes, 3 turns
  • Drying: pre-drying on concrete slabs, followed by sun-drying on wooden racks
  • Harvest: twice a year – at the beginning of the rainy and dry season

Cacao Traceability
As with all of our cacao bean varieties, the supply chain is 100% traceable. The beans are harvested, fermented, dried, picked, screened and packed in 65kg jute bags (allows the cacao to breathe) on a single farm. They are then transported by truck to the port of Antsiranana. It’s also worth noting, employees of the MAVA farms have a complete remuneration package, which includes health insurance, transport to work and a field to grow staple crops for their family. Looking at the poverty rate of Madagascar (third highest in the world), it’s enlightening to learn how MAVA are protecting and assisting their valued employees.