Our Story

Meet the Founders

 

We are Juan Echevarria and Maria Mendez. We met in the 1970s as high school students. Over time the relationship grew, we got married and finished our university degrees. Maria in education, specializing in physics and biology and Juan in Administration, Accounting and Marketing. When we finished university, Maria became a teacher and Juan entered in the manufacturing industry. Our family grew and we had 3 daughters. Years passed and life progressed; we continued growing as a family and in our professional life, always with the ups and downs that every family faces. Radical change came into our lives in 2008 when Maria had to retire from teaching due to a health condition and Juan, who at that time had a private business, felt obligated to close it since it was not performing as expected.

“We always loved chocolate, but cacao was not grown locally in Puerto Rico at the time. We discovered wild cacao pods on our parents’ farms and began making our first chocolate bar.”

Juan & Maria

Founders of Jeanmarie Chocolat

Adapting to change

 

Confronted by the new reality and an unplanned change in our lives we worked hard to adapt. The first thing was to face Maria’s health situation, which we were able to resolve positively. Then we turned our attention to our economic situation because there was no longer a stable income in our home. It was then that we embarked on a new life project and became farmers. At first we did not know what our best farming options were, but little by little we explored possibilities. In our search for the best crop to grow on our farm we applied two fundamental principles for our agricultural project. We needed a crop that is adapted to the climate of Puerto Rico and that product had to have the potential to be exported. In this search, we identified Cacao as the crop that met both requirements. But what cacao should we produce? We began to study the international cacao market and found that there is a classification for a specialty cacao known as Fine and Flavor Cacao. Since Puerto Rico is a small island with limited farmland, we understood that there was a great opportunity if we produced a specialty cacao.

The Creation of Hacienda Jeanmarie

 

Once we defined our main objective to grow a specialty cacao on our farm, the search began. Cacao had been cultivated in Puerto Rico centuries ago and its descendants remain in the forests and abandoned farms around the island. We rescued some and started growing it as an experiment. The search continued and that is how we met Dr. Brian Irish who was director of the USDA ARS TARS Cacao Clones Conservation Center in Mayaguez, just half an hour from our farm. We met with Dr. Irish and presented him with the idea of producing a special cacao. Dr. Irish became very interested in our project and Juan asked to volunteer in the TARS conservation crop and thus learn more about cacao. The Dr. agreed and we worked together for 5 years in which Juan had the opportunity to learn everything about the cultivation, propagation and maintenance that cacao requires. With the help of Dr. Irish, varieties of high quality and yield were selected and planted on our farm which we call Hacienda Jeanmarie.

Our Island-wide initiative “Proyecto Pais”

 

Seeing the great potential of cacao, we were filled with the desire to share our inspiration with the entire island. We no longer thought only of developing our farm, now we had the vision of creating an industry for the cultivation of Fine and Aroma Cacao in Puerto Rico. We gave that vision the name Proyecto Pais “Island-wide project”. Our project was written about in newspapers and and mentioned in the media in Puerto Rico and there was growing public interest in learning more about us. That is how we began to offer workshops on cacao farming and the potential to unite and create an industry through the development of farms throughout the Island. The crop grew throughout the country and continues to this day. The development of an industry that provides opportunities to Puerto Ricans is our legacy to Puerto Rico.

Jeanmarie Chocolate

 

When we started making chocolate with our cocoa in 2010, we had to create a brand name for our products. In that search we came up with “Jeanmarie“. It was simple, that would be the union of our names in the French language. That is when “Juan y Maria” became our trade name “Jeanmarie”. Being a family business, we love having a clear and direct relationship with our clients, which is why we share our history tory in this simple and open way with all of you.

 

“Thank you for supporting us and supporting the Fine and Aroma Cacao industry of Puerto Rico. Our goal is to produce in Puerto Rico one of the finest cacaos and chocolates in the world.”

Juan and Maria

Founders - Jeanmarie Chocolat

Mission

Our mission is to delight our customers with the finest and most aromatic chocolate, produced with cocoa beans grown in Puerto Rico.

 

Vision

Our vision is to process one of the finest cocoa beans in the world, grown in Puerto Rico with sustainable conservation practices that protect the natural resources of our island.