Something that is on most people’s minds is chocolate. And Peruvian Chocolate is a wonder that you have to experience. Did you know that the cacao bean has been cultivated in South America for many centuries, and ancient civilizations consumed hot chocolate on cold winter nights? That’s right, this historic ingredient has its history in South America. And Peru is not exempt from this wonderful delight. Peruvian chocolate Cusco delicacies should be at the top of your list to try in Cusco. Therefore, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about Peruvian Chocolate. So that you know the main characteristics of this iconic delight.
Everything you need to know about Peruvian Chocolate
- What is Chocolate?
- The history of Chocolate
- Chocolate zones production
- Cacao health benefits
- Chocolate types
- 5 recognized Peruvian Chocolate brands
- Closest best Chocolates to Machu Picchu
- Chocolate experiences in Peru
- The quality of Peruvian Chocolate
- Social responsibility
What is Chocolate?
Peruvian chocolate is known worldwide for its quality, variety, and large history. 60% of the world’s cacao production comes from its Amazon basin and there are cultivated 3 different cacao beans types, the creole, trinitario, and forastero, ranging from the most aromatic to the most bitter.
Cacao grows as seeds in some tropical evergreen cacao trees. Trees are friendly to the environment as they provide shade and protect the soil. These trees had their origin in the Amazon. It was an important part of pre-Hispanic cultures such as the Aztec and Maya. The Spanish brought Peruvian Chocolate to Europe from South America. They processed it with different techniques, adding sugar and milk. And thus remove the bitterness and give it a sweeter taste. Today, Chocolate is considered one of the best Peruvian superfoods. The downside is that the different processing techniques take away a lot of the natural benefits.
The history of Chocolate
Peru is a wonderful place to visit, especially if you are a Chocolate lover. Chocolate has been a part of daily life in Peru for centuries, even in Inca times. And for this reason, it is not surprising that Peruvian Chocolate is recognized as one of the most delicious in the world. Make sure you get the most out of the different tours in Peru and include a stop at the markets. There you will find a great variety of homemade Chocolates to enjoy.
Its origins in America
Chocolate is native to the rainforests of South America. To be more specific to Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. There is an endless debate where the true origin is discussed. Some believe that it grew at the same time in Central America, but numerous paleobotanical and phytogenetic investigations contradict these mentions. The results and solid evidence indicate that Chocolate originated in the Amazon basin. In fact, chocolate has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years by indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest. In Peru, it was the Incas and their predecessors who grew cacao. The Incas transformed Peruvian Chocolate into an infusion considered medicinal and ritualistic.
The arrival in Central America
Later it was taken to Mexico, where it was cultivated for thousands of years. For the Mayan and Aztec cultures, Chocolate was a fundamental part. They believed that Cacao was a gift from the gods. According to the Mayans, it was a gift from a feathered serpent god known as Kukulkan. While for the Aztecs, this serpent god was known as Quetzalcoatl. But despite having its origins in South America, it was in Mexico where it received its name. Chocolate comes from the Aztec word XOCOLÄTL. This word is a mixture of the word XOCOC which means Sour and ATL which translates to drink. The bean used to become a bitter-tasting drink used in numerous rituals and festivals. Even the Aztecs used Chocolate as currency.
Arrival in Europe
The real reason many people believe that Chocolate originated in Mexico is that it was there that the Spanish first encountered it. It was in 1519 that the Spanish had the opportunity to taste this delicious delicacy. When the Spanish tried the Chocolate infusion, they thought it was an unpleasant and bitter drink. But they couldn’t deny its medicinal and aphrodisiac effects. So they did not hesitate to take this magical ingredient to Spain and, consequently, to the rest of Europe.
Chocolate zones production
Peruvian Chocolate grows both in the Amazon rainforest basin and in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. But to be more specific, Peruvian Chocolate is grown in the Amazon.
|Amazon Rainforest||Andean Foothills|
In addition, it is cultivated along the north coast of Tumbes and Piura.
Harvest and production
With Peruvian Chocolate, there is the main harvest and a mid-harvest season.
- In Peru, the main season for growing and harvesting occurs between April and August. Keep in mind that most of the Cacao grows during this main season.
- While the mid-growing season in Peru occurs between October and November. Even though the growing and harvesting season is limited to a part of the year, Cacao care is a year-round effort.
Both producers and local workers tend the trees, harvest the ears by hand, and process the beans into Chocolate. All to finalize the packaging and sale of the product to be part of much world cuisine and in Peruvian gastronomy. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 Peruvians work in the Cacao industry.
Cacao production could be summarized in these steps:
- Collect the cacao pods.
- Extract the beans covered with white pulp.
- Roasting the beans.
- Winnowing to extract the cacao beans.
- Grind the nibs to obtain a paste with sugar and/or milk.
- Shaping and filling.
- Cut into bars for wrapping.
- Sampling and sale.
Cacao health benefits
Peruvian Chocolate is delicious as well as healthy. It is considered one of the many Peruvian Superfoods. But it is in the Chocolate in its raw form where these benefits are most apparent. Whether in whole cocoa or cocoa powder, it has many benefits.
- Foremost, it is packed with proteins and fibers that aid digestion and muscle development.
- Second, it is packed with trace elements like Potassium and Magnesium. These help neurological and metabolic function.
- But perhaps most notable are its mood-enhancing properties. Thanks to its high content of theobromine and phenylethylamine, the consumption of Peruvian Chocolate improves mood and increases energy levels.
But keep in mind that the benefits of Cacao decrease notably with its processing. When additives like sugar and milk are added, cacao can be more of a sweet than a superfood. Despite this, a good dark chocolate bar can provide a wealth of antioxidants, minerals, and other bioactive compounds.
The many natural growing regions for Peruvian Chocolate is one of the things that distinguishes Peru. Growing in so many areas of incredible biodiversity in the Amazon basin and the foothills of the Andes, the plant encounters different species, soils, and climates. Consequently, this creates an incomparable series of distinctive flavors and aromas. But in general, Peruvian Chocolate could be classified into three main varieties.
This is the most popular Peruvian Chocolate in the country, it is even one of the most demanded worldwide. Nicknamed the King of Cacao, these beans contain a high-fat content and a better quality of flavor and aroma. Creole often has caramel, nutty, vanilla, and tobacco flavor tones. It is a fairly rare bean and only accounts for 5% of the world’s cacao production.
This variety of cacao is a hybrid variety and is the result of a cross between Cacao Criollo and Cacao Forastero. It is originally from Trinidad, hence its name. This variety of Cacao represents only 12% of all the chocolate produced in the world. It has a fairly variable flavor profile and a strong cacao flavor that is much less bitter.
The Forastero Cacao, also known as Amazon Foreign, is the most common Cacao in the world. This variety represents around 80% of all world chocolate production. The Forastero is native to the Amazon and has a characteristic sour, bitter and chocolatey flavor. But it does not have those finer subtleties characteristic of Cacao Criollo. Most of the Chocolate you have ever consumed is likely of the Forastero variety.
5 recognized Peruvian chocolate brands
There are countless brands of Peruvian Chocolate to taste. You can find from bars that are sold in small family farms to boxes of truffles available in all supermarkets and markets in Cusco and all Peru. And here we have listed some of the most popular brands in Peru.
The four-time winner in the International Chocolate Awards, Cacaosuyo is grown in the three main areas of Peru. The Piura region on the Peruvian north coast, the Cusco region in the Andes, and the Amazon Rainforest. This delicious chocolate bar has a wide variety of flavor notes. These can range from fruit flavors to honey and herb flavors. It all depends on the growing region. You will be able to enjoy bars of 70 and 80 percent dark and 50 and 40 percent milk. All with a great variety of ingredients.
This chocolate Peruvian company was awarded two silver medals in the International Chocolate Awards of 2017. The process of the fine selection of cacao beans (When they fall from trees) until producing its bars is overviewed in all moments by them (Bean to Bar). Also, its cacao production lands are located in Cusco, San Martín, and Piura, all of which produce organic cacao beans of the highest quality. The company has four types of chocolate: 80% Dark, 70% Dark, 60% Dark, and 50% Milk Chocolate.
Magia Piura (Piura magic)
This brand is exclusive to Piura (A north city of Peru). The nationally recognized company produces quality bars of cacao from beans grown in its farms of Morropon – Piura. Also, the company diversified its products to panettone, truffles with different flavors, and even craft beer. The flavor of its chocolate bars is intense with floral and fruity notes (with plum mango crystals) or lucuma powder, it is perfectly combined with Peruvian desserts. Nowadays, its products are offered in two world-recognized restaurants, Central (Peru) and Caller de Can Roca (Spain). They offer bars with 35% chocolate, ideal for people who want to try Piura cacao with a dairy balance, and more intense cacao bars with 55% and 72% chocolate.
This Peruvian chocolate company was founded by Lorenzo Llosa and José Visconti, two cacao enthusiasts who researched the cacao productions, its beans, benefits, best season of growing inter alia, by three years. The result is Elemento, a chocolate bar produced with organic and craft beans grown only in the Peruvian jungle. Nowadays, they work with Awajún Amazon communities, close to the Marañon river, developing the best form to cultivate cacao beans. They have four chocolate presentations: 70% intensely roasted artisanal chocolate (fruity flavor with notes of honey and wood), 70% lightly roasted artisanal chocolate (fruity flavor with floral and herbal notes), 70% medium roasted artisanal chocolate (fruity flavor with notes of coffee and nuts), and 52% artisanal milk chocolate.
Dreams of Eva
Dreams of Eva may be the most recognized Peruvian Chocolate brand abroad in Peru. The company was awarded more than 20 international awards, and now it is recognized as one of the best chocolate-hottie companies around the world. They work with Cusco, Piura, San Martín, Cajamarca, and Amazonas cacao beans combined with burgundy grape, pisco, yellow pepper, ginger, lucuma, banana, even broad beans. The brand has three types of presentations:
- “Aurora Collection” consists of 5 fine chocolates: Copoazu & Blueberries, Pineapple & Black Pepper, Pomegranate.
- “IPA Collection”, Raspberry, Asaí & Ají Panca, and Blackberry & Wasabi.
- On the other hand, the “Orígenes Collection” is perfect for a gift, since it has chocolates from five cacao-growing areas of Peru.
Closest best chocolates to Machu Picchu
If you are a chocoholic, then you will be delighted to know that the city of Cusco keeps some secrets that not everyone knows. Although you will be excited to see Machu Picchu and all the other Inca ruins and sites, you will also be excited to experience chocolate when you travel to Cusco. And The Imperial City has some fascinating chocolates to try. Here we will present two places that you should not miss and that we recommend on your trip to Cusco.
La Cholita Chocolate
La Cholita (Peruvian affectionate name to women) is a traditional Cusquenean company with more than 63 years of experience making quality chocolates and their derivatives. Even, they had the advice from expert chocolatiers from Germany and Switzerland, winning the prestigious national award “Inca Dorado Awards 2018” as the best Peruvian chocolate. They have a variety of presentations; bars, hotties, chocotejas, truffles, even sculptures in Chocolate. You can find them in the same Cusco airport, at the stand located on the second floor and the Real Plaza Commercial Center, close to Airport.
Chocomuseo is an international organization that promotes and helps regional cacao producers to improve and make known its chocolate beans. They work in 4 different countries, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Peru. On the last one, Cusco is its main office, located in Plaza Regocijo. Chocomuseo must be the first stop for chocolate lovers in Cusco. At Chocomuseo, you learn about beans and the process of grinding beans into a flavorful paste, and you can even make a take-home bar for later. At Chocomuseo, you can take classes in chocolate sculpting, cupcake making, and truffle filling, to name a few. The Museum has a cafeteria, thank goodness, that offers a menu full of brownies, buns, and fondues that can be eaten with Mayan-style hot chocolate or Peruvian coffee. This chocolate is locally grown and as they say at the Chocomuseo, the chocolate comes with twice the flavor and half the guilt.
Chocolate experiences in Peru
Peru is a country with a big tradition of Chocolate. Around its Amazon and foothills Andean lands, the cacao beans are produced and exported to the world. For this reason, It is not a surprise that there are many routes to enjoy this charm and learn more about it:
- Bean to Bar Workshop: This is an informative workshop where you will see the entire making-off process that Chocolate has, from the cacao beans collected from trees until the chocolate presentations, bars, truffles, hotties inter alia. Also, some workshops include hands-on activities to make your own chocolate hottie. Places like Chocomuseo or Cacaotal in Barranco – Lima offer it.
- Tasting Chocolate: You will have the possibility of tasting a great variety of Peruvian Chocolate has, not only in bars but also in liqueurs, butter, jams, even dishes made from chocolate. This experience is offered by the majority of Peruvian restaurants of five-forks and Chocomuseo in Cusco.
- Cacao farms routes: The best Chocolate routes are located in the middle of the Amazon. And many Amazon resorts and lodges offer a visit to these cacao plantations where you will talk with the same farmer, see the lands with the appreciate tree, even eat it from the same pod. In the case of Cusco, Chocomuseo offers this type of tour in the surrounding lands of the Cusco region, where the cacao beans are grown.
- Chocolate, Ceramic, Truffles, and Pisco Workshop: Happily, in Peru, we have an infinite type of workshops, since ones that offer ceramics, even sculptures on the base of chocolate, passed by other ones that offer helps you to make tasty truffles and chocolate hotties, until last ones that teach you how to make delicious drinks on the base of Peruvian chocolate liqueur. You can hire some of these workshops in Chocomuseo in Cusco.
The quality of Peruvian Chocolate
Peru is undoubtedly a geographically and biologically diverse country. And as for the different species of its plants, Cacao has a special place. Peru is one of the main places where Cacao originated. The Andean country has 60% of the world’s cacao varieties. Along with coffee, cacao has become one of the highest quality Peruvian products in the world. Even Peru has been classified by the International Cacao Organization (ICCO) as a country where fine cacao is produced and exported. Peru is responsible for 36% of the world’s cacao production, which is why our country is considered one of the main producers in the world.
Nowadays, more and more chocolate companies, restaurants, and exporters have a social Responsibility with the cacao cultivate lands owners because they prefer organic and natural beans to someone grown with chemicals and fertilizers. Perhaps there is not a government control office to regulate this kind of agreement between the exporters and the producers, many ONGs (Non-governmental organizations) ensure that producers obtain a fair price for their crops, in this case, their cacao beans, like Fairtrade International, the most known.
Therefore, you can be good and calm at the moment to taste the delicious Peruvian chocolate!
“THERE IS NOTHING BETTER THAN A FRIEND UNLESS IT IS A FRIEND WITH CHOCOLATE”
As you can see, Peruvian Chocolate is a delicacy that you cannot miss on your trip to Peru. The distinguished cacao beans and their different processing techniques are unique. You will be able to try a unique variant in the middle of South America. And if you can, also try the wonderful coffee from Peru. Both will leave you wanting more. Together with Machu Travel Peru, we hope we have been of help. If you want to know more about this wonderful country and its different ingredients, you can consult with our team of advisors. We will be waiting for your soon visit!