When a measles outbreak in Samoa killed 83 people in 2019, husband and wife team Lasi Theng and Justin Theng decided something had to be done to help improve the country’s infrastructure and increase prosperity. Lasi is from a Samoan farming family, and when she and her husband visited her family’s cacao plantation from their home in Australia, they found a viable solution was already there.
The plantation is perched high in the verdant Samoan mountains, and while Lasi’s family has worked the fertile, nutrient-dense volcanic soils for many years, the returns for their efforts have been modest.
“All the farmers in the area work incredibly hard and they get by with very little,” says Lasi. “But the cacao they produce is very high quality. There is an opportunity here to bring more prosperity to the local cacao farmers by using digital technology to introduce their premium gluten-free, vegan friendly and organic cacao products to the international market.”
And so TKS was born. The company sells single-origin, sustainably sourced cacao nibs, cacao beverages, and chocolate tea made from cacao husks. A portion of TKS proceeds are re-invested directly back into developments in Samoa.
“By connecting Samoan farmers with a global village that they didn’t previously have access to, TKS can create a real difference – not only for the families that are directly involved, but potentially for greater Samoa as well,” says Justin. “Prosperity in farming families leads to prosperity in villages, which improves infrastructure across the country. That means better roads, better living conditions, better access to utilities and access to public services.”
German farmers introduced cacao to Samoa in 1883 with the Criollo and Forastero subspecies. The hybridised offspring of the two subspecies produced a high quality bean – known as Samoan Trinitario – that is renowned for its fine flavour profile and dense nutrients.
“Locals refer to these beans as Koko, and the derived beverage 'Koko Samoa.' This is the inspiration for what we’re offering to the market today,” explains Lasi. “TKS cacao products not only taste great, they are good for you too. They are considered to be a superfood.”