A Journey to the Heart of Peruvian Lands
Peru offers a unique setting for cocoa cultivation with its multiple faces and varied climates . From the coastal desert surrounding Lima, to the hot and humid jungles of the Amazon, to the majestic volcanoes of Arequipa, each region reveals unique nuances in the cocoa it produces. Today we explore the history of cocoa in this country which saw the birth and disappearance of the great civilization of the Inca empire.
The cocoa tree and its Inca roots
The Incas flourished in the Andean region of Peru between the 15th and 16th centuries. They played a significant role in the cultivation and consumption of cocoa in this region of the world. For the Incas, cocoa was a precious commodity, touching the sacred domain. They called it “chocolatl,” a word that inspired the name of the chocolate we know today. Cocoa was consumed as a drink, often mixed with spices, honey, or other ingredients to mellow flavors.
Cocoa, a national treasure
With an annual production of 56,000 tonnes, representing less than 2% of world production, Peru has made a name for itself in the world of high quality cocoa known as "fine" cocoa, producing 20% of the latter. . The reputation of Peruvian cocoa is not only limited to its unique flavor, but extends to its crucial role as an alternative to coca cultivation , providing an escape from the pressure placed on many peasants by traffickers.
Peru's commitment to sustainable agriculture and the preservation of its terroirs makes it a key player in the global organic cocoa industry. More and more artisanal chocolatiers recognize the taste value of these terroirs, thus contributing to the development of the first organic sector in the world. A movement supported by the Peruvian government by declaring cocoa cultivation as “Heritage of the Nation” in 2012.
The diversity of Peruvian terroirs
The cocoa of this country is dominated by the Criollo variety, the majority in the territory. However, a fascinating and often misunderstood characteristic of Peruvian cocoa is the genetic diversity mixing traditional species ( criollo , national , Contamana , Curaray , Marañón , etc.) and hybrid (ICS 95, CYP-99, etc. ). Hybrid varieties were introduced from 1916, following an epidemic devastating traditional varieties. Thanks to this diversity of varieties, the trees have been able to adapt to the different Peruvian microclimates, and the 12 regions of the country are all cocoa producers. Each of these regions brings its own aromatic contribution, creating a mosaic of highly coveted flavors. The regions of San Martín, from Cusco or Piura, offers a distinct terroir, influenced by factors such as altitude, soil, climate and local biodiversity.
A fine cocoa for great chocolatiers
With such an impressive and rich cocoa culture, it is only natural that the Bean-to-Bar world would turn to Peruvian cocoa. Testifying to this attraction, we can cite prestigious artisan chocolatiers from around the world such as Orfève (Switzerland), Racine Carrée (France), Qantu (Canada), etc. But, we must also mention the excellent Peruvian artisan chocolate producers (Farm-to-Bar) such as Kuyay, Cacao Suyo and Maraná .
This month, Chocolats du Monde pays tribute to the diversity of Peru with the delicious creations of Maraná, which transports us from Cusco to San Martin .
Maraná, a chocolatier proud of its heritage
A Peruvian chocolate factory, founded by Zulema and Giuseppe, the company aims to make Peruvian culture shine, with carefully selected beans with illustrations displayed on their packaging. Both are committed to helping farmers improve their quality of life through direct trade and encouraging sustainable agricultural practices. Maraná beans come from three regions: Piura, San Martin and Cusco, and show us all the aromatic diversity of these three exceptional terroirs.
Tablet of the three terroirs Cusco, Piura and San Martin from home Marana
A tablet with fruity aromas of red fruits, a lingering vegetal and undergrowth finish evoking humus and moss, like a breath of fresh autumn air.
Terroir: San Martin, stands out as an important center of cocoa production. Nearly half of the production of national beans comes from this area, where the economy is highly dependent on this crop. The plantations of the Tarapoto region are surrounded by the Amazon forest and were pioneers in the development of organic cocoa in Peru. Around 90% of production is intended for export, reflecting the appetite of chocolate multinationals such as ALTER ECO Bio, Lindt and Equitable .
San Martin region photo by Amerika
A chocolate with a traditional Peruvian taste with a captivating fruity flavor reminiscent of notes of raisins, candied plums, and light tropical acid notes evoking passion fruit. Cocoa, rich in lipids, is creamy and silky.
Terroir: A cocoa of the Chuncho variety (regional variety) from the plateaus of the Quillabamba valley, in the Cusco region. It is rare to find cocoa at an altitude of more than 1,000m. However, the Quillabamba valley has for centuries offered unique conditions that allow “Chuncho Urushaia” cocoa to stand out with its floral and blueberry notes. Some cocoa trees in the region live up to 200 years. It is a cocoa known for its flavors but also for the naturally high proportion of cocoa butter in the bean, rich in lipids. This cocoa was rediscovered only around twenty years ago and is the subject of patient work to revalorize it thanks to the efforts of hundreds of small farmers, grouped into cooperatives. Difficult to cultivate and transform, it is fragile in the face of diseases, limiting its production.
Aromas and notes
A bar filled with freshness, the " Gran Blanco" cocoa recalling its heritage of the Nacional variety carries sweet notes rich in citrus, reminding us of orange, lemon and mandarin.
Terroir: Piura, Considered one of the cradles of original wild cocoa, Peru has preserved a rich heritage of native varieties, including the famous white cocoa beans “Gran Blanco” or “Albino”. Rediscovered in the 2000s, and since considered one of the noblest in the world, known as “Fino de Aroma”, this white bean cocoa is grown in the fertile Alto Piura valley, in the northwest of the country. Beans have floral and citrus aromas.
Portrait of Zulema and Giuseppe founders of Maraná
You want to continue your discovery of Peruvian cocoa! We recommend the following sites and articles: