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Original Beans, Fine-Quality Chocolate Maker

Partners with Wheels4Life to Bring Bikes to the Congo
by Seri McClendon
July 12, 2009

Original Beans, a chocolate company that blends production of premium chocolate with restoration of some of the world's most ecologically threatened regions, has announced a partnership with the non-profit foundation, Wheels4Life. Founded by extreme biking legend and former World Mountain Biking Champion Hans Rey, Wheels4Life provides bicycles to help people in developing countries break out of the poverty cycle.

Original Beans and Wheels4Life have delivered the first 20 mountain bikes to the Northern Virunga region, several hours North of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In an unprecedented local venture, Original Beans is developing nurseries, conservation certification practices, and quality improvement training around the cultivation and fermentation of cacao with the goal of conserving tens of thousands of hectares of original rainforest. The project already involves 6,000 farmers and is expected to grow to 10,000. One million seedlings of cacao, fuelwood, and timber tree species are currently in nurseries waiting to be planted. Says Original Beans co-founder Rodney Nikkels: "We don't need expensive consultants to develop peace and prosperity in Kivu. We need a few million bags for seedlings and 20 thousand bikes." Bikes offer the only viable means of transportation in the region's hilly, muddy terrain, and will be used by conservation trainers and cacao bean farmers.

Original Beans produces the world's first single-source chocolate from the Congo. Called Cru Virunga, it has an intense flavor with mouthwatering nuances of mulberries, cara cara orange, and honeysuckle. The beans are grown at the margins of Virunga National Park, home to 380 of the last 720 or so remaining mountain gorillas in the world. Bikes for farming and seedlings to replant have a direct impact on the economic survival of the local forest-based population in this post-war economy. The project will help to provide a source of income and fuelwood alternative to charcoal production, the dangerous illegal trade affiliated with the mountain gorilla killings that shocked the world in July 2007.

In addition to Cru Virunga, Original Beans produces Beni Wild Harvest, made from wild beans collected in Northeastern Bolivia, and Esmeraldas Milk with Fleur de Sel, from beans grown in the Northwestern rainforests of Ecuador. Beni Wild Harvest has notes of honeyed black tea, tobacco flowers, and cognac. Esmeraldas is a sophisticated milk chocolate with a taste of buttery, rich caramel atop the loam and fruit flavors associated with prized arriba beans.

Original Beans is the first chocolate bar maker to create a direct link between its customers and the conservation supported by every chocolate purchase. For each bar sold, Original Beans plants a tree in the chocolate's place of origin. Chocolate lovers can track their efforts through a code on a certificate within each bar. Customers are encouraged to visit to find out about replanting and conservation progress; to see biodiversity snapshots and to monitor the number of trees planted to-date.

Original Beans is a chocolate company that produces premium chocolate from the world's rarest and most flavorful cacao beans, grown in ecological hotspot regions. In alliance with local communities and with the help of its customers around the globe, Original Beans is committed to the restoration of cacao forest habitats. Every bar of Original Beans chocolate contributes to the protection and replenishment of its forest of origin. One bar. One tree. Go see at

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