Peruvian cocoa has a unique history, one that is closely intertwined with the country’s other famous crop: the coca leaf. But what exactly links these two crops? And what makes consuming Peruvian chocolate not only especially delicious, but impactful?
A Puzzling Past
The Peruvian jungle (along with Ecuador’s) is where Theobroma cacao (aka the cocoa tree) is believed to have first fruited.
An intriguing way to explain both the relative lack of early history and superabundance of cocoa varieties in Peru is that for a long time it was the coca leaf, rather than the cocoa plant, that indigenous people turned to for energy and seemingly some religious rituals.
Sidenote: the coca leaf was (and is) NOT used by local tribes in Peru as an intoxicant or recreational narcotic. Instead it has many other applications including being used as an appetite suppressant, source of energy, painkiller, means to fight altitude sickness, etc.
It is this focus on the coca leaf that may have led to the different varieties of Peruvian cocoa being left alone and allowed to flourish.
Swapping Coca Leaves for Cocoa Trees
Local drug enforcement agencies, the UN, USAID and many other development agencies have been encouraging the farming of cocoa rather than the coca leaf in Peru.
Initially there was concern that this would lead to the replacing of heirloom cocoa trees with fast growing, but foul tasting, cocoa varietals like CCN-51. However, recently there have been more encouraging signs with the likes of the UN financing educational programmes on fermentation so farmers can showcase the amazing potential of the beans growing throughout Peru.
See our bars below if you want to delve into the wide range of Peruvian flavours, and even some wonderful Peruvian craft drinking chocolate.
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