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Holy Cacao: Artisanal Chocolate From the Holy Land
by Rivki Naomi Green | August 9, 2020 | Producers
When Jo Zander, owner of Holy Cacao, speaks of his home high in the Hebron Hills, he calls it the "Napa Valley of Israel." At first glance across the windswept plain overlooking the Dead Sea, one may not immediately see the connection.

Jo explains that this area of Judea is verdant, growing fruits that are flavorful and delicious; pomegranate and cherries, (which find their way into Holy Cacao creations) wine grapes, and olives. It is the difficult growing conditions that these plants face that causes them to produce luscious fruits.

Life for the settlers is much the same; the challenges faced by the pioneers are what make re-establishing Jewish homes in this ancient homeland so sweet. Jo knew that he was home the first time that he drove into the small settlement of Maale Chever. A man of deep beliefs, he speaks with gratitude about living and raising his family not far from where his biblical ancestor, Abraham, opened his tent to travelers.
Starting a, now internationally recognized, artisanal chocolate business in this remote location was a leap of faith. His first obstacle was central to his whole process… he needed to find a cacao roaster in the land of Israel. In spite of searching, he came up empty-handed.

Jo is not one to let hardship hold him down and he was able to "McGuyver" a clothes dryer into a small batch cacao roaster. This repurposed dryer served him well until it burst into flames and was retired! Fortunately, he has since resourced a supplier for roasters but explained that he and his team have had to learn how to service the machinery as well as they use it, as there are no technicians in their beautiful yet isolated area.

For Jo, making amazing chocolate in the Holy Land is a calling. He is inspired by his surroundings and channels that love into his chocolate creations. The partnership between Lev Haolam and Holy Cacao has been a favorite for our subscribers who have had the opportunity to experience this divine chocolate.

Each member of the Lev Haolam family has played a part in the continued growth of Holy Cacao. Jo shared that the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on many businesses in the area and that the support of Lev Haolam has made a sustaining difference for Holy Cacao. They have been able to weather the storm and continue making chocolate and strengthening their community.