Cusco grows some of the world’s finest cacao. That has been known locally but became global knowledge when chocolate made from the region’s native cacao, chuncho, won the best in competition in the International Chocolate Awards recently.
A marriage of the chocolatiere’s art with fine cacao, the winning dark chocolate bars produced by Lima’s artisan Shattell Chocolate is 70% chuncho. This enterprise made itself known for producing bars featuring cacao’s from Peru’s different chocolate growing regions and now has included the chuncho with excellent results.
This native cacao is not a heavy producer and, as a result, despite its high quality and amazing flavor profile, was shunted aside by growers in favor of more commercial varieties. Nonetheless, with the help of Peru’s extension agents, the crop is being cultivated more carefully and its outstanding qualities of flavor are being more recognized. Shattell describes it as follows: “this bar begins with a malt chocolate aroma before revealing flavour notes of cherry with a deep chocolatey and nutty finish.” (reference)
The company says that it “is an artisan chocolate factory located in Lima, Peru. Our chocolates are produced from the finest organic cocoa beans grown in different areas of the Peruvian Amazon; some of the varieties are: Piura Blanco, Criollo Tingo Maria, Criollo Satipo, Chuncho Cusco, Criollo Tumbes, Criollo Piura, Criollo Tarapoto and Criollo Pucacaca. All our chocolates are single origin; we do not make blends, so chocolate lovers can enjoy the characteristics and distinctive taste of each variety.
We source our beans directly from the farmers and give them a fair price for their finest cocoa beans, compared to industrial buyers who pay them as for regular beans. As we make more chocolates, the growers’ income increases, improving their quality of life.
We work with the farmers, teaching them how to make their own chocolates: hot chocolate, bonbons and bars, adding value to their cocoa. All practice organic growing, but all are not certified; we advise them on how to obtain the organic certification.” Cacao chuncho del Cusco fue premiado en Londres
Not only is chuncho cacao, named after the indigenous people of the upper jungles, it is increasingly available in the markets and stores of the Imperial city. Not long ago it was very hard to find chuncho cacao paste or even chocolate in Cusco. Instead most chocolate was bought up by large companies such as Nestlé or Winters for whom the specific qualities of different farm steads or local varieties and flavor qualities did not matter since the cacao was blended to create a uniform product for people that did not appreciate fine dark chocolate. Now, chuncho is available in places like Ruro just off the main square and chuncho cacao paste bars can be bought in most supermarkets.