Something that is on most people’s minds is chocolate. And, if you know, Peruvian Chocolate is one of the best in the world, if not the best. Did you know that the cacao bean has been cultivated in South America for 5,000 years, 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. Especially, that Cacao that is cultivated in the Amazon of Cusco. Therefore, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about chocolate in Peru, its history, zone of production, and health benefits among other important facts. We encourage you to take a look.
Everything you need to know about Peruvian Chocolate
- What is Chocolate?
- The history of Chocolate
- Chocolate zones production
- Cacao health benefits
- Cacao uses
- Chocolate types
- 5 recognized Peruvian Chocolate brands
- Closest best Chocolates to Machu Picchu
- Peruvian chocolate workshops
- The quality of Peruvian Chocolate
- Social responsibility
What is Chocolate?
Cacao grows as seeds in some tropical evergreen cacao trees in the middle of the South American Amazon. Trees are friendly to the environment as they provide shade and protect the soil, favoring grain production. These trees have their origin in the Amazon, very close to the big South American cultures. Therefore, it was an important part of pre-Hispanic cultures such as the Aztecs and Maya. When the Spanish arrived in America in 1492, they were so enamored with chocolate that they began to send Peruvian Chocolate to Europe. The preparation method consists of 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. But, one of the best chocolate is that one produced in Peru. Peruvian chocolate is known worldwide for its high-quality, variety, and large history. 60% of the world’s cacao production comes from its Amazon basin and there are cultivated 3 different cacao bean types, the Creole, Trinitario, and Forastero, ranging from the most aromatic to the most bitter.
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 since Inca times. And for this reason, it is not surprising that Peruvian Chocolate is recognized as one of the most delicious in the world, for its long history of production improvement. For this reason, make sure you get the most out of the different tours in Peru and include a stop at the markets, where you will find a great variety of homemade Chocolates to enjoy.
A. Its origins in South America
Chocolate is native to the rainforests of South America. To be more specific in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. There is an endless debate about where the true origin of Cacao is situated. 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 5,300 years ago. In fact, chocolate has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years by indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest. In the case of Peru, it was the Incas and their predecessors who grew cacao. The Incas transformed Peruvian Chocolate into an infusion considered medicinal and ritualistic.
B. The arrival in Central America
Later, around 3,000 B.C. It was taken to Mexico, where it was cultivated for thousands of years. For the Mayan and Aztec cultures, Chocolate was a fundamental part of their daily life. Even, both cultures 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 seed used to become a bitter-tasting drink used in numerous rituals and festivals. But this was not the only use of cacao, it is recorded that the Aztecs used Chocolate seeds as currency.
C. 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 in its presentation of 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
Usually, Peruvian Chocolate is cultivated in the Amazon. To be more specific, it grows both in the Amazon rainforest basin and in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
|Amazon Rainforest||Andean Foothills|
In addition, it is cultivated along the north coast of Tumbes and Piura, Peruvian north cities.
Harvest and production
In Peru, there is the main harvest and a mid-harvest season.
- The main season for growing and harvesting occurs between April and August. In this sense, 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 the repertoire of world cuisine and 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. However, it is in its raw form where these benefits are most apparent. Whether in whole cocoa or cocoa powder, you will find the following 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, that improves mood and increases energy levels.
Also, a good dark chocolate bar can provide a wealth of antioxidants, minerals, and other bioactive compounds. 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 candy than a superfood.
Chocolate and its benefits have been well-used since ancient times by the inhabitants of Peru. In this sense, the millennial inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon and those from the high Amazon jungle began to consume it in the form of a foamy drink with religious and medicinal purposes (1,400 BC). Ground cocoa beans, fruit juice, spices, and medicinal plants (some psychoactive) were present in the cocoa foamy drink.
As time passes, with the arrival of the Spanish in 1492, they found chocolate a delicious and, at the same time, nutritious product. Over time, Chocolate was gaining followers around the world and increasing its demand. In this way, the demand for the Cocoa product increased, increasing farmland, producers, and cocoa stores in Peru. Today, the consumption of chocolate is widespread in Peruvian cuisine and in its most representative desserts such as:
- Chocotejas: They are chocolates filled with manjar Blanco and nuts, traditional from the department of Ica (South of Lima).
- Cacao tea: These are dry cocoa shells that are ground, roasted, and left to soak in boiling water. It is taken like any tea.
- Chocolate cake: The chocolate cake that everyone knows, moist, fluffy, loving with raisins or other dried fruit.
- Hot chocolate drink: This is melted chocolate, which is mixed with boiling water, fresh milk, and a little sugar. The result is a frothy and hot drink, perfect for those cold days.
The many Peruvian natural growing regions for cacao are one of the things that distinguish Peru. Growing in so many areas of incredible biodiversity in the Amazon basin and the foothills of the Andes, the cacao seed encounters different soils, and climates. Consequently, these conditions create an incomparable series of distinctive flavors and aromas. For this reason, chocolate in Peru could be classified into three main varieties.
This is the most popular type of cacao seed in the country, it is even one of the most demanded worldwide and used in gourmet chocolatiers. Nicknamed the King of Cacao, these beans contain a high-fat content and a better quality of flavor and aroma. It is a cocoa with fruity aromas with notes of nuts and is slightly bitter, but refined. 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. Besides Peru, it is cultivated mainly in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in small quantities. In addition Venezuela, Colombia, Caribbean islands, Trinidad, Jamaica, and the island of Grenada. In Madagascar, Java, and the Comoro Islands.
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, with an aroma without finesse and little fruit flavor. Consequently, it does not have those finer subtleties characteristic of Cacao Criollo. Also, it is grown in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Sao Tome, and some plantations in Southeast Asia. Most of the Chocolate you have ever consumed would be likely of the Forastero variety.
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 & Tobago, hence its name. This variety of Cacao represents only 12% of all the chocolate produced in the world. It is much more resistant to diseases and has a much more subtle flavor. It contains a wide range of flavors, and aromas and lingers on the palate. Flavors of hay, honey oak, apple, and melon can be appreciated. In addition to Peru, it is grown in Trinidad, Java, Sri Lanka, Papua-New Guinea, Cameroon, and Venezuela under the name Carenero Superior.
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 of Peru. And here we have listed some of the most popular brands that you can find in the Andean Country and the most popular markets around the world.
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% dark and 50% and 40% milk. The three varieties of chocolate offer unique sensations on the palate.
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 the production of their bars is overviewed at all moments by qualified personnel of the Chocolate Shop (Bean to Bar). Also, its cacao production lands are located in Cusco, San Martín, and Piura, which produce organic cacao beans of the highest quality. The company has four types of chocolate: 80% Dark, 70% Dark, 60% Dark, and 50% dark combined with 50% Milk.
C. Magia Piura (Piura magic)
This brand is exclusive to Piura (A northern city in 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 Celler 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% of pure chocolate.
This chocolate Peruvian company was founded by Lorenzo Llosa and José Visconti, two cacao enthusiasts who researched the cacao productions, its beans, benefits, and the 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.
E. 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, and 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 taste the delicious 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.
1. La Cholita chocolate shop
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 support 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, and even sculptures in Chocolate. You can find them in a stand on the second floor of the same Cusco airport and at the Real Plaza Commercial Center, in the Wanchaq district.
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. In the last country, Cusco hosts its main office, located in Plaza Regocijo. Chocomuseo must be the first stop for chocolate lovers in Cusco. At Chocomuseo, you learn about cacao seeds and the process of grinding them into a flavorful paste, and you can even make a take-home Chocolate bar for later.
At Chocomuseo, you can take classes in chocolate sculpting, cupcake making, and truffle filling, to name a few workshops. The Museum has a cafeteria that offers a menu full of brownies, buns, and fondues that can be eaten with Mayan-style hot chocolate or Peruvian coffee. The chocolate offered in its stands is locally grown and as they say at the Chocomuseo, the chocolate comes with twice the flavor and half the guilt.
Peruvian chocolate workshops
Peru is a country with a big tradition of Chocolate. Around its Amazon and foothills of Andean lands, 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 in the Peruvian Amazon to the chocolate presentations in the worldwide markets, 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 this kind of workshop.
- Tasting Chocolate: You will have the possibility of tasting a great variety of chocolate, not only in bars but also in liqueurs, butter, jams, and 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 appreciative cacao tree, and even eat the seeds from the same pod. In the case of Cusco, Chocomuseo offers this type of tour in the surrounding lands of the 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 help 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 flora, Cacao has a special place. Besides being one of the main places where Cacao originated, the Andean country has 60% of the world’s varieties. Also, along with coffee, cacao has become in the presentation letter of the Andean country to the world. Even Peru has been classified by the International Cacao Organization (ICCO) as a country where fine cacao is produced and exported. This is because Peru is responsible for 36% of the world’s cacao production. All these facts demonstrate the quality of chocolate in the Andean country.
Nowadays, more and more chocolate companies, restaurants, and exporters have a Social Responsibility to the cacao cultivate lands owners because they prefer organic and natural beans to someone grown with chemicals and fertilizers. Although there is no government control office to regulate this kind of agreement between the exporters and the producers, many ONGs (Non-governmental organizations) ensure that Peruvian 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 chocolate! Because you are contributing to fair trade within Peru.
“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!