Ramón Seeds

A Traditional Roasted Beverage of the Maya

Ramón seeds were a traditional food of the Maya, who referred to the ramón tree as “the corn tree” since they ate the seeds like corn. Ramón seeds could be stored for long periods of time or dried and ground into a flour that was blended with corn flour.

While the flavor of the raw seed is quite neutral tasting like a potato, roasted ramón seeds have a similar taste to dark roasted coffee with some chocolate flavor notes. The Maya were drinking a brew of roasted ramón seeds before the Spaniards ever brought coffee to the Americas. It was considered to be highly nutritious for pregnant women. Other names for ramón trees throughout Central America include Capomo, Ojoche, Ojite, Ojushte, Ujuxte, Masica, Guaimaro, Mojo, Pisba, Waihka, Berba, Manchinga, Taju, Ox, Breadnut and Chokogou in other Central American cultures.

Tree nut & allergen free

Unlike almonds, walnuts and pecans, ramón seeds do not contain tree allergens because they are a seed of a fruit, not a tree nut. People with sensitivity to almonds can safely drink Teeccino’s Maya flavors.

Antioxidant, mineral and fiber rich

Studies show that ramón seeds are comparable to walnuts in their high level of antioxidants. They also have twice the amount of calcium as corn, quinoa and oats, and are rich in fiber, potassium and tryptophan, the amino acid that helps calm stress, anxiety and depression.

Creating New Trade

Teeccino has pioneered the harvest of ramón seeds in rural communities within the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. By giving value to this seed that formerly went to waste on the forest floor and by educating locals about how to prepare ramón seeds to make nutritious recipes, we have provided income-earning opportunities for women and a free food for their families.

Here's the story...

Back in the ‘90’s, Caroline was sourcing herbs in Central America in order to provide income for families living in impoverished communities in the rainforest. By creating sustainable income from non-timber forest products, economic value is given to standing trees, which discourages illegal logging operations.

Caroline would ask anyone she met what rainforest plants were eaten in their communities. She began to hear about a tree whose seed was harvested by the Maya in the forest surrounding their communities. She was intrigued to learn that they drank it as a roasted, hot beverage. Having just started Teeccino, you can imagine how eager she was to taste that roasted brew!

Fortunately, there was an American company developing organic coffee and other organic ingredients in Guatemala. Caroline worked with their team to commission studies of the ramón seed and its potential sustainable harvest.

The Guatemalan government tightly controls what forest products can be harvested in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, where there is a high population of ramón trees due to the Maya having intensively planted them around their cities. It took a number of years to work through the bureaucratic barriers to prove that ramón seeds fell in abundance every year and plenty were going to waste on the forest floor.

The right partnerships are essential

Long term partnerships built on trust and mutual benefit are essential to successfully sourcing herbs. After all, that’s what good business is all about! For ramón seeds, Caroline found a kindred soul who also believed in the future of ramón seeds in Guatemala. HIs company specialized in processing cardamom and allspice. Together, they worked on drying methods, which was a challenge due to the primitive conditions in the forest. Specialized equipment had to be built to separate the pericarp and chaff from the seed.

Then came the hurdle of discovering how to roast the seeds to develop the optimal flavor. Caroline spent many days with the Guatemalan roasters tasting batch after batch to dial in the perfect roast.

The role of NGOs in developing new trade

When working in rural communities to develop new income sources, it is essential to have a strong partnership with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that understand the social fabric of the communities and have the trust of the local people. Luckily, Rainforest Alliance has a local team focused on helping villages in the Maya Biosphere Reserve with support from Heifer International and other NGOs and aid organizations. Today, there is a collective of nine communities who share the cost of the organic certification and the drying facility and have expanded the territory in which the seeds can be collected.

While Teeccino is still the largest purchaser of ramón seeds, we hope that more companies will create products with ramón seeds to increase the demand for this seed and thereby provide income for these communities. After almost 20 years of developing this harvest, we’re finally in the position to reliably supply ramón seeds to the world!

Read more about Teeccino’s mission to create new trade that preserves rainforests and about the educational and nutritional programs we support for women and children in Central America.