Name: Juan de La Cruz Ribera de Mar
Finca: La Nicolasa (named after his mother)
Comunidad: Campesina Cesar Vallejo Palo Blanco, Chulucanas
Altitude: 235 Meters above sea level
Arboles: 2,000 native or criollo cacao trees
Years growing cacao: 30
How he learned: from his grandmother who grew cacao as an ailment for local nursing mothers to give them strength
Previous job: a veteran of Peru’s Air Force
The best thing about chocolate: it’s really good; it can be a food or a medicine, plus, it gives you happiness and pleasure
How does fair trade help you:
-increased knowledge and quality of cacao
-5 children who were able to attend university
-two national prizes for premium cacao
As Juan says,”It’s completely changed my life. I’ve become known by people from around the world.”
The mission was simple, the journey, not at all.
In the bouncy seats of the tuk tuk, visions of verdant green patches and dry forest outcroppings flashed by. We were just two hours from the city of Piura, but we felt far more removed from bustling commerce. As we snaked through the winding dirt road, we finally reached our destination: award-winning cacao concealed behind a bamboo thatched door. We followed Juan de la Cruz, our guide and a local cacao farmer who beamed a toothy grin as he opened the gate to let us in.
Despite the arid land that rimmed many of the roads, we stood looking up to a green canopy of shade trees. A strategy Juan described as two-fold, primarily to protect the cacao from Peru’s strong sunlight, and secondly to reward the local children (and us) with delicious and sweet fruit.
On the way there, Juan reached into his pocket. The packaged product was the same purpose as to why we had come too. Rich, dark, pure chocolate. A French chocolatier had visited these same cacao fields to see, like us, the complete cycle of cacao bean to chocolate bar. From the soil to the tree to the fermentation process to–ultimately–our own chocolate bar.
We were curious how the unique factors affect our product, but also and equally, we wanted to hear the stories behind the men and women who make our cacao. Special thanks to Juan de la Cruz and la Comunidad Campesina Cesar Vallejo Palo Blanco. Look forward to a special post dedicated to him and his story.
What makes cacao from Piura so unique? Most of the trees are native or criollo, a cacao distinction which represents only 1% of all cacao trees in the world. Unlike the far more ubiquitous forastero cacao, which represents 80% of cacao trees in the world, criollo cacao is complex and aromatic, not strong and bitter. This superior quality is reflected by the high price and demand of criollo from premium chocolatiers around the world. It’s easy to see why it’s the preferred variety for unique chocolate.
Want more? Follow us for more updates and stories from the cacao trail!
–In conjunction with our NEW chocolate making workshops, we’re publishing this guide to help define the difference of handcrafted chocolate. What better way, we think, than through the stomach, right?
As a child, I’d scarf down a Reese’s Cup before you could say stop. Since then, I’ve learned from the chocolate experts. If you’re tasting a carefully crafted piece of chocolate, you’re missing important flavor notes if you don’t slow down and head these tips.
Despite most people’s perception of it, chocolate has more than 400 complex flavor compounds. For context, that’s more than a fine wine. And the process begins with the cacao variety, specific soil conditions, and the climate. But that’s just the beginning. The taste of chocolate is further affected by each step in the chocolate making process. That is, the fermentation, the way it dries, roasting times and temperatures, even the size of the cacao bean. Ultimately, this means that each bar of chocolate–even if you’ve already tried that particular variety–can taste different, especially when the bar comes from small batch bean-to-bar companies (like Chaqchao).
So, how do you best note the subtleties of fine chocolate? If you’re a lover of chocolate–and still reading this blog post–get a glass of water (or piece of bread*) and follow the numbered points below.
1. Prepare. You should be in a room where other smells won’t distract. Moreover, that water or piece of bread will help you cleanse your taste buds and help you distinguish the inherent subtleties between each brand and type of chocolate (if you’re trying more than one).
2. Smell. Take a whiff. That aroma you experience is a big part of the tasting experience.
3. Look. The chocolate should appear glossy, not chalky, due to proper tempering (the strategic lowering and raising of temperature to acquire the exact crystals).
4. Listen. Snap the chocolate. By breaking it, you can see if the chocolate, once again, has been tempered well. If not, the break will be soft and crumbly.
5. Taste. Finally, (I know what you’re thinking; I’m that omnipresent narrator), it’s time to taste the chocolate, but make sure you don’t chew it yet. Place a portion on your tongue and let it melt a little. Why? When chocolate melts other flavor notes are revealed.
Like the process of tasting wine, the more practice you have, the more refined your tasting will be. Hints of cinnamon, a smoky smell, jasmine, spice, cherries, or maybe, in fact, you taste vanilla. All of this is possible. Each chocolate bar, as you’ve discovered by now, is unique. Just like your particular idea of the chocolate you’re tasting, it’s unique.
6. Wallow. If you’ve selected a good chunk of chocolate, the taste will still be there minutes later. Take it slow; this is no Reese’s Cup, you’re (most likely) a mature, sophisticated adult. Wallow in the sweet pleasures that it brings. And most of all, enjoy it, hopefully you’re tasting some of the world’s finest chocolate.
Want to learn more? Sign up for one of our bean-to-bar chocolate making workshops! We’ll discuss–in more depth–the history of cacao, the significance of the source, and how to (most importantly) make and taste it.
For more details about our workshops, please contact us through our Facebook page. ¡Nos vemos en Arequipa!
*Note: bread not required if sampling just one type, unless that is, you really like bread as much as your chocolate.
Chaqchao Chocolates is comprised of an international staff. Get to know each one of these wanderers (er, baristas) better.
Meet Michelle who is Québécoise, (the French part of Canada), as she’ll quickly let you know.
What brought you to Arequipa & Chaqchao?
I decided to spend my gap year traveling through South America and when I arrived in Arequipa, I ended up really liking it. I met Javier, the owner of Chaqchao, while working in a local hostel and instantly wanted to be a part of his chocolate project before it even started.
What is your favorite thing about working at Chaqchao?
There are so many things. There’s the work environment, learning more about Peruvian and organic products, and of course, helping clients learn about the process and history of making chocolate.
What’s your favorite Chaqchao product and why?
That’s a hard one! My favorite is… the banana bread because I’ve always really liked banana bread, but I especially love this one because it’s organic. I never get tired of eating it.
Favorite meal to eat in the White City?
Ceviche! It’s just the best. I could eat it three times a day. It’s fresh and so cheap.
Best hidden locale?
The puente bolognesi. For me, the view from the river and the mountain is really amazing. Plus, it’s always so cute to see the love locks that couples place on the bridge.
If you could describe Arequipa in six words what would they be?
Sunshine, welcoming, flavorful, vibrant, and never-ending-fiesta.
As for the future, what are your plans (travel or otherwise)?
My plans are to travel until the end of May and start university in Montreal at the beginning of September.
When the world consumes cacao–in chocolate, cocoa, nibs, and more–more than 70% of that comes from West Africa. In terms of diversity, that’s akin to tasting just one or two varieties of grapes, rather than sipping the full spectrum of the world’s wine. Cacao is no different. Depending on the terrain, the climate, and the tree, cacao can be earthy, fruity, acidic, bitter, and floral.
As a Peruvian company, Chaqchao uses cacao grown and roasted exclusively in Peru. What is the Peruvian cacao difference? Notes of cinnamon, dried fruits, floral hints, and more subtleties we don’t even know about yet. In Peru alone, there are more than 60 different varieties of cacao, out of the world’s 100 total varieties. Unlike anywhere in Africa, cacao has been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years. Moreover, Peru is the world’s second largest exporter of organic cacao.
What does that mean for the chocolate consumer? Whether you’re a novice or expert, opt for single-origin bars to taste the cacao difference. Just as you prefer a bottle of wine that isn’t cloaked and disguised in a blend, chocolate should be consumed in that same way, too. As a company that focuses on bean-to-bar chocolate, you should instantly gleam the award of not eating something created from Hershey’s. For specifics, learn more about Peru’s most valued bean below.
Grown near Piura, just four degrees south of the equator, this white cacao bean is one of the most prized in the world. Known as porcelain cacao because of its distinctive pale white color, piura blanca is Peru’s most recognized bean because of its high quality and rich flavor. It comes at no surprise that some of the best chocolatiers in the world, professionals such as Pierrick Chouard, Jean Paul Hevin, Philippe Bernachon and Stéphane Bonnat, use it.
Interested in learning more? Chaqchao will soon have chocolate making workshops. Make your own bean-to-bar chocolate in the country of cacao!
Written by Chaqchao Staff
Authentic. Local. Fair. These words are easy to tout, but many businesses fail to define how they accomplish them. Used together, these words (and more) are simple marketing magic. Like hashtags on Twitter, they’re trendy.
As such, on my recent trip to Cuzco, I wanted to learn more. Chaqchao uses ingredients only found in Peru. One such ingredient is salt. Not sea salt, but salt which is collected from an ancient saline stream found in the Urubama Valley, just an hour outside Cuzco.
Long ago, before the Incas even, this saline stream was captured. The inventive evidence can still be seen today. Man-made pans follow the arch of the small valley. From the dirt path, which leads travelers up the (very steep) hill from the village of Maras, hundreds of pans can be seen capturing the subterranean water. Once these pans fill up, the water begins to evaporate. Local families, some who have owned the pans for centuries, come and collect the salt crystals. Together, they own a cooperative to sell the salt. The same cooperative that Chaqchao buys from.
Salineras de Maras is just one example of Chaqchao’s promise to invest within. If you’re near the Incan capitol of Cuzco, you should visit, too! The S/7 entrance fee goes directly to the families that work and live there.
Do you have any resolutions for 2014?
According to Food Tank, here are 14 food resolutions you should consider. In particular, we’re passionate about no. 7 and no. 13.
As Food Tank reminds us, buying organic means protecting our bodies and natural resources. Supporting family farmers helps boost the local economy throughout Peru. It’s the underlying reason why we, at Chaqchao Chocolates, buy all our organic cacao and coffee directly from farmer cooperatives. It’s not just about supporting our small business in Arequipa; it’s equally important to help the small communities we source from in Peru.
This year, we’re hoping to add more indigenous crops (no. 6) to our menu. Here’s to 2014!
Do you have any resolutions related to food or a healthy lifestyle?
¿Necesitas un regalo esta Navidad?
¡Ven a Chaqchao y disfruta de nuestras delicias navideñas!
Tenemos un mix para hacer chocolate caliente orgánico y, como siempre, barras de chocolate orgánico.
Need a last-minute Christmas gift?
Stop by Chaqchao!
Ven a la fiesta navidena de Chaqchao! Proyectaremos clasicos navideños – Charlie Brown y Elf! Y tendremos Chocolate Caliente de Menta!
Wear your ugliest holiday sweater, we’ll have the Christmas film classics on the projector.
Plus, expect to see:
-Peppermint hot chocolate
-Holiday photo booth
-A naughty Santa
At Chaqchao Organic Chocolates, Calle Santa Catalina 204, Arequipa, Peru. The festivities start at 5.