Peru’s cacao and its chocolate are gaining more and more recognition, especially at a time when the industry faces severe challenge due to questionable labor practices on large plantations in Africa and disease. In Perú cacao is grown on small farms and as a result avoids the problems elsewhere. At the same time, Peru’s cacao varieties are globally recognized for their quality. These include the porcelain chocolate of Peru’s north and the chuncho variety of Cusco. They are literally some of the best in the world.
Nevertheless, it is difficult for those who raise this cacao to get it into the hands of consumers who value its quality. Most cacao in Peru tends to be bought up by producers of local chocolate bars and other chocolate products, such as Nestle the owner of Peru’s D’Onofrio and its Sublime chocolate bars. There the fine taste of local cacao with its depth, its berry and floral notes disappears into a standardized and ordinary mass.
Fine chocolatiers that appreciate the qualities of terroir in cacao are developing in Peru, but you do not yet see them in the market in Cuzco. The City does have a Chocomuseo, which values local chuncho cacao, though the enterprise has gone hemispheric. And, a seller of chocolates, República del Cacao (the Republic of Cacao) has opened on Espaderos street, between Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas and its Plaza Regocijo.
República del Cacao does offer fine chocolate bars made from Peruvian cacao, though the store is from Ecuador and openly promotes Ecuadorian chocolate, as well as fine Ecuadorian hats. The chocolate is excellent with a rich and enticing flavor profile. It is a nice addition to Cuzco.
However, they are vague about the specific region where their cacao originates. Cacao is grown in many regions along the interface between the Amazon and the Andean highlands, each with its own ecological characteristics, mix of cacao varieties, as well as resulting flavor differences.
Given the recognition and awards given to specific farms now in Peru with the Golden Cacao award, it is time for chocolatiers to make chocolates made with these specific cacao’s available for consumers.
Peru has a rich variety of cacao and its day has come. It will be even more wonderful when we can taste the specific varieties (such as the porcelain and chuncho, as well as others) and the work of the specific farmers who each year win awards for the taste and quality of their cacao.
Cuzco needs a home where its fina cacao can be offered as splendid, local, chocolates.