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.
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