Help Us Save The Chocolate

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The main partner of the CCC is the Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, which belongs to Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The scientists taking part in the research work of the CCC are all ARO employees. The Volcani Center serves as the research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the State of Israel. The organization supports Israeli agriculture research, focusing on plant sciences, animal sciences, plant protection, soil and environmental sciences, food sciences, and agricultural engineering, as well as agricultural endeavors in other parts of the world. This world-renowned agricultural center was founded in 1921 in Ben Shemen, Israel, by Yitzhak Elazari Volcani, for whom it is named. In 2017, ARO was named a laureate of the UNESCO–Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. The award statement declared: “The institute has successfully developed cutting-edge innovations and methodologies in agricultural research with practical applications as well as capacity building programmes to promote food security in arid, semi-arid and desert environments, advancing human well-being.”

The Ben Shemen Youth Village is a long-standing, highly respected boarding school with an emphasis on agriculture. The 750m2 climate-controlled greenhouse used by the CCC will be located there. The Ben Shemen Youth Village was established in 1927 by the German Scientists Siegfrid Lehmann and Albert Einstein in order to house Jewish orphans and WW1 refugees and involve them in the agricultural efforts to revive the Jewish homeland. Since that time, it has raised thousands of graduates including Israel’s former President Mr. Shimon Peres, and it is currently home, family and educational institute to 450 students aged 6-21.  

The Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) is a Ghanaian government-controlled institution under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The Cocobod governs all aspects of cocoa growing and exporting including research. Its mission is to encourage and facilitate the production, processing and marketing of good quality cocoa, coffee and sheanut in all forms in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

CRIG is a research institute under the auspices of the Ghana Cocoa Board. CRIG researchers will be partners in the collaboration with Ghana. The mission of CRIG is “To be a centre of excellence for developing sustainable, demand- driven, commercially oriented, cost-effective, socially and environmentally acceptable technologies which will enable stakeholders to realize the overall vision of the cocoa industry and that of the other mandate crops (Coffee, Shea, Kola and Cashew).”

ICQC is situated at the University of Reading, near London, England. The ICQC is a pivotal part of an international effort to improve the sustainability of cacao production by enabling scientists to exchange distinct genetic types (‘genotypes’) for use in their crop breeding or research programs, whilst minimizing the risk of spreading devastating pests and diseases.

After two years in quarantine, clean and safe cocoa cuttings are shipped from Reading to some 20 different cocoa-producing countries and to scientists in other countries.

The ICQC supplies much of the genetic material for our work.

The GEI is an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on practical mitigation and adaptation solutions for climate change. GEI has practical hands-on knowledge in biochar production and renewable energy, and it is building and creating the CCC’s technical and administrative infrastructure.

Ran Kalechman

Ran Klackman

Ran is electrical engineer by day and a loving gardener at night and on weekends, whose craving of chocolate started early in life. He has been growing fruit-bearing cacao trees in a small greenhouse in Emek Yizrael since 2010. Ran happily supplies the CCC with seedlings and pods, and hopes we will never run out of chocolate

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Links We Like

Cocoa Research Center – Trinidad
The oldest cocoa research institution in the world, a global leader in the conservation and characterization of cocoa germplasm.

Absurdly Easy Chocolate Fudge
Absolutely delicious and addictive. Click on the link at your own risk – and please don’t complain that we didn’t warn you!

Living Web Farms – US
A great resource for urban and rural small farmers.

ASA Initiative – Ghana
The ASA Initiative focuses on practical economic empowerment of women, youth and farmers and is a partner in making cocoa biochar for our projects.

International Biochar Initiative (IBI)
The leading international framework supporting safe and economically viable biochar.

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Something about Cocoa

Most of us LOVE chocolate. Chocolate is an exceptionally tasty Superfood, which activates our brain’s “Happiness Center”. We feel good because chocolate bathes our mouths in a rich creamy dissolving umami taste and causes our brain to release natural pain-killers called endorphins. In our mind, the taste of chocolate is associated with all those special times that chocolate showed up as a prize or a mediator of happiness and festivity. 

The Cacao Tree

The Cacao Tree, the fruits of which chocolate is manufactured, was domesticated by the inhabitants of Meso-America more than 4000 years ago. It originally served as holy food in religious rituals and as currency for obtaining and transferring wealth. It is said that the Aztec Emperor Montezuma exclusively fed on cocoa mixed with vanilla and other spices. In the 17th century, cocoa appeared in the French court as an aphrodisiac drink. Cocoa’s popularity grew quickly and it spread across Europe. The botanical name for the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao L. “Theobroma” literally means “Food of the Gods”, and probably most of us can agree that we are thankful they left it here on earth for us poor mortals to enjoy!

Cacao is grown

Cacao is grown in the wet and warm regions in the tropical belt. In nature, a young cacao shoot develops under the shade of large forest trees until it grows and produces fruit in its 4th or 5th year. Plant diseases and low soil fertility caused the centers of cacao production to move from South America to Africa during the 20th century. Today, about 65% of the approximately 5 million tons of cocoa beans produced in the world each year come from West Africa, where the Côte d’Ivoire (35%) and Ghana (22%) are the main growers. Indonesia started growing cacao in the late 20th century and today it is the world’s third largest producer.

From Cacao to Chocolate

Cacao pods resemble elongated melons of varying yellow, red, orange and brown colors, and they each contain about 40-60 seeds coated in a thick sweet white pulp. Mature fruits are cut open and the seeds and pulp removed from the pod to be fermented. This takes about one week, after which the fermented seeds are dried, packed in bags, and shipped to processors. Chocolate makers roast and shell the seeds before grinding them into a thick paste which is then separated into two components. Oil turns into cocoa butter and is used for confectionary, cosmetics, and soap. The remaining solids are called “cocoa powder”, which is the base for chocolate. While the words ‘cacao’ and ‘cocoa’ are often used interchangeably, ‘cacao’ actually refers to the plant itself, while the products made from the plant are called ‘cocoa’.

The ‘Food of the Gods’ is also known as the ‘Superfood of Superfoods’

Cocoa is healthy for humans and it is considered the “Superfood of Superfoods”. Chocolate having a high percentage of cocoa contains mainly cocoa powder, with lower amounts of sugar, milk (absent in most dark chocolates) and oil or cocoa butter. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants, and are involved in destroying carcinogenic cells. Flavonoids also enhance blood flow and aid the building of muscle and other tissues. Chocolate causes our brain to secrete endorphins – those natural painkillers responsible for mood elevation and happiness – which are definite promoters of good health. Chocolate is rich in the L-arginine amino acid, an agent suggested to promote sexual desire and improve sexual functioning (reference). 

Cocoa – Blossom

Cocoa – Blossom & Pod

Cocoa – Fruit

Cocoa – Seed

Cocoa – Drying Seed