Makers on a Mission
La Rifa, Mexico
Co-written by Monica & Daniel Eduardo Rezza, Monica Lozzano & Fausto Reyes
We are a project focused on the transformation of cacao to chocolate. We started in 2012, trying to solve many questions around Mexican cacao and chocolate. Where does the chocolate we eat come from? Does the chocolate we eat contain real cacao? Why is it so difficult to find genuine chocolate in Mexico City? These and many more questions have kept us from sleeping over the years. However, the path we are traveling has been more enriching than we could imagine. We have met many people who, like us, have decided to make cacao and chocolate their life's project.
Cacao was domesticated by the Mesoamerican peoples, reaching great social, economic, commercial and political importance. For us, it is important that Mexican society rediscover and revalue this great seed, which was quickly displaced by chocolate-flavored sweets.
Cocoa Beans At La Rifa we make chocolate from the cacao bean (Theobroma Cacao), in an artisanal way and of the highest quality, we use polyvarietal cacaos from different regions. The cacao that you will taste is cultivated in different communities in southern Mexico, such as Cunduacán in Tabasco, Pichucalco, Ostuacán, Tecpatán, the Soconusco area and the Lacandona jungle in Chiapas, as well as Chinantla in Oaxaca mainly.
All the seeds come from agroforestry systems that not only give a unique flavor, but also help preserve the biodiversity of the southeast of the country. Once the cacao is transported to the city, it is selected, roasted, ground, mixed and refined by La Rifa's team of young chocolatiers. It is important to mention that our bars are only made up of cacao and sugar.
The chocolate that we make is the product of Mexicans who work every day to keep this tradition alive, we work hand in hand with cacao-producing families, who have kept this tradition alive for generations.
Currently, in addition to our chocolate bars, we also make cacao-based beverages, since it is traditionally the way it is consumed in this region, trying to bring cacao to more people. We make different blends, with different percentages of cacao and spices.
In 2014, we organized the First Festival Artesanal de Cacao y Chocolate. This festival aimed to bring together national cacao producers and chocolatiers, in order to expose the richness and variety of the Mexican cacao culture in all its expressions through: conferences, workshops, musical presentations, tastings and expo-sales. This festival has led to many other Chocolate projects coming together to organize events around cacao, such as Vivo C.A.C.A.O. and the Festival Independiente de Cacao in Oaxaca.
This same year we were invited to the Salon del Chocolate at the World Trade Center, where we set up an installation that comprehensively addressed the culture that surrounds Mexican cacao and it’s traditional drinks.
In 2016, we started Central Cacao, a space in which Mexican projects focused on the revaluation of the culture of cacao and chocolate in all its varieties converged. At Central Cacao we bring together 24 projects that work with Mexican chocolate and we seek to create awareness about the consumption of cacao in our society.
In 2017 we opened our Chocolatería / Taller in the Juárez neighborhood. Here we carry out the production of La Rifa and give workshops and experiences to continue reaching more people interested in Mexican cacao and artisanal chocolate.
We have participated in Competitions such as the International Chocolate Awards in 2017, and our Blanco Marfil and Uranga bars obtained Silver and Bronze in the Bean To Bar Plain Chocolate Bars division.
Subsequently, we competed in the ICA World Final, and got Bronze for our Blanco Marfil Chocolate bar.
In 2017, we had the opportunity to collaborate with NOMA Tulum. We sent our Blanco Jaguar Chocolate to be part of their menu inspired by Mexican flavors. We were invited to give a talk to all the staff to learn about the process from cacao to chocolate.
Currently, we continue to collaborate with NOMA 2.0 Denmark, by providing them with our Blanco Marfil and Blanco Jaguar chocolate for the preparation of their seasonal menu, our chocolate is used for the preparation of desserts.
In 2018, La Rifa carried out a Tasting Tour through different cities of the U.S.A. (Baltimore, Washington, NYC, Chicago) where talks and tastings of different chocolates made by La Rifa with different cacaos from Mexico were given.
We were invited in 2018 to The Chocolate Conservatory at Harvard University, organized by the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, who also organized the Intensive Cacao Analysis Course, which we attended as participants.
Likewise, we are part of the New England Chocolate Festival with the Workshop "Mexican Cacao: Knowledge and Flavors".
We were part of the sensory evaluation panel of the 2018 Biodiversity-Friendly Mesoamerican Cacao Contest, which sought to recognize excellence in Mesoamerican cacao in terms of flavor and biodiversity-friendly practices in terms of production.
In 2018, the Blanco Jaguar 70% bar was awarded the silver medal in the International Chocolate Awards America section, in the category of chocolate bars of origin, without flavor.
In 2019, we attended the Grenada Chocolate Festival as guest workshops where we gave a Mexican artisan chocolate workshop, a tasting of La Rifa chocolates with traditional mezcal, and hosted a dinner inspired by cacao plantations.
2019 was the first year in which we organized the NO MOKA Contest, which seeks to recognize the honesty and creativity of a drink where cacao and coffee beans are used. Looking for the balance between: Flavor, Technique and Traceability.
In 2020 we started to make traditional Chocolate at Dark Matter’s new coffee and chocolate bar, Caravanserai. Traditional chocolate drinks are being served using fermented and washed cacaos from Chiapas and Tabsco, Mexico.
In May of the same year we started with the Telpochcalli de Cacao y Chocolate, a network for the exchange of knowledge and practices that is articulated by the care and transformation of cacao, but which is not limited to a single seed, it seeks to be broader and understand the biocultural complexity in our territories. We start from the fact that the importance of cacao plantations and the life that they reproduce in them is little valued, after thousands of years of interaction between communities-families and forests-forests, today they are trying to introduce practices that have little to do with cultures. and ecosystems that have coexisted throughout the centuries. For this reason, we have decided to establish this initiative as a tool that allows improving practices, disseminating knowledge, being a meeting point, as well as for the permanence and defense of the territory.