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A caffeine-cocoa revolution with Daniel Duarte | co-founder of Koawach

A caffeine-cocoa revolution with Daniel Duarte | co-founder of Koawach

Koawach was founded in 2014 by Daniel Duarte and Heiko Butz. Schalk Kearney, CEO and co-founder of +earth interviewed Daniel Duarte for episode 3 of our founder feature interview series, Be Different.

Watch the full video interview.

Fair, organic, and vegan

These three words are music to the ears of those passionate about making the world a better place. They are also the three words that perfectly embody Koawach – a revolutionary new addition to the cocoa market that is not only delicious, but also has the Earth’s best interests at heart. This delectable new drinking chocolate combines fine Fairtrade cocoa and caffeinated guarana with aromatic spices, offering a wholesome alternative to coffee. “We want to make the world more sustainable, more fair, and of course, more tasty,” says Daniel.

Where it all began…

The story begins (as all good stories do) in a small kitchen over a camping stove. Duarte and Butz were students at Cologne University in Germany. Both as committed to sustainability as they were to their studies, the two found that their shared aversion to coffee put them at a disadvantage to other students who could rely on the dependable caffeine kick to get them through long nights of exam prep.

They wanted a tasty alternative that could offer the same boost as standard caffeine drinks. Inspired by Duarte’s Colombian roots, they decided to combine two South American ingredients that have garnered wide-spread cult status over the centuries for their restorative properties: cocoa and guarana.

First discovered by the Mayan civilisation in Central America, cocoa was introduced to Europe in the 16th century and quickly gained popularity for its health benefits. The cocoa used to make the rich chocolatey drink we have all grown to know and love is made by crushing the dry solid remains of fermented and roasted cocoa beans, leaving an unsweetened, richly flavoured powder.

Guarana, a Brazilian climbing plant native to the Amazon basin, has also been used for centuries and contains an impressive amount of stimulants including caffeine and theophylline. In contrast to the caffeine found in coffee, the body breaks down the caffeine from the guarana powder much slower, providing a slow release caffeine buzz as opposed to the kick and crash of regular coffee.

The two established that the bitter earthy taste of the tannins in the guarana powder could be pleasantly concealed by the chocolatey flavour of the cocoa, making a flavour match made in heaven. The idea for caffeine cocoa was born, and the shared kitchen was transformed into a laboratory where every spare minute was used to find the perfect flavour combination of the two raw ingredients. After testing different varieties of the recipe with friends and fellow students on campus, the two were confident enough to take their product to the 2013 Entrepreneurship Summit where they would pitch to a larger audience. They had one minute to convince their listeners…

The reception was hugely positive and 500 orders for the product streamed in. Koakult GmbH was founded in 2014, and the brand ‘Koawach’ was created, born with a very important target. “We set a goal from the very beginning that our product has to be fair traded, and organic,” explains Duarte.

In all fairness…

Fair trade ensures sustainability in improving the quality of life for farmers.

All the ingredients that make up the different varieties of Koawach come from a range of fair farmer cooperatives in Latin America – cocoa from Peru, guarana from Brazil, and raw cane sugar from Paraguay – and all bear the Fairtrade seal. In fact, it was Duarte and Butz who campaigned for the initial Fairtrade certification of the Agrofrut cooperative in Brazil in 2018, from where they obtain their guarana, adding a new raw material to the Fairtrade portfolio. 

Not only are these the best possible ingredients from the best possible producers, they are also ingredients that contribute to the sustainable treatment of people, as well as the environment. Some key points of the Fairtrade system include:

Social fairness
Conditions under which farmers work must be fair. This includes the honest equality between men and women, and the prohibition of child and forced labour. 

Ecological fairness
Farmers are encouraged to switch to renewable energies where they can, and use waste and water resources sustainably. Organic farming and biodiversity, to stabilise ecosystems against climate change, are also a criteria. 

Economic fairness
Payment is fair, and cooperatives that work according to Fairtrade standards are paid premiums to compensate for their efforts. Money flows into the purchase of new technology, but also into a community fund for medical care, education, or environmental protection. “It is up to them, as a community, how they spend this fund,” says Duarte.

According to Duarte, it is of utmost value that the system improves the lives of farmers and their families and community so that future generations can benefit from the actions of today. “The main goal is to ensure quality of life for all involved and that means enjoying the planet that we have and also using the resources in the best way that we can,” he says. Duarte visits the cooperatives at least once a year to see how progress is being made, and is constantly looking for new ways to improve. As a company, Koawach is focussing on being able to offer a 100% climate-neutral product by 2030 through strong partnerships and sustainable practices.

Closing words… What does sustainability mean to you?

“I was working a lot on my values recently – as a person, an employer, a father, a partner –  and very high up on my list was being open, and acknowledging and enjoying life,” says Duarte. “Being open is about accepting, and really living, and being thankful for things. Also high on that list was being respectful. And that is what I think about sustainability.”

“It’s not about looking at the world and where it’s going to be in 100 years and living in fear that it’s going to be destroyed. That’s not useful. For me, sustainability is about how I am being respectful right now. To nature, and to the people around me. If we change our minds into thinking like this, I believe the world can change with us.”

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