Peru is know to have a rich history of growing cocoa, however it has been relatively slow to join the revolution in craft chocolate making. Maraná joins only a handful of makers crafting chocolate from bean to bar in Peru.
After a decade in the corporate world, founders Zulema and Giuseppe were in search of a more fulfilling career. They had come to learn about tee growing popularity of Peruvian cocoa as an ingredient, and decided to explore ways in which they might be able to use their native cacao to craft chocolate in Peru. They embarked on a journey of exploration, learning in parallel about the different cacao regions and profiles found within Peru, and about the technical skills needed to craft these natural ingredients into world class bars.
Very quickly they decided that their focus was to be on sourcing cacao from single regions, and maintaining close relationships with those involved in growing the cacao. For Zulema and Giuseppe, this means more than just giving their farmers a fair price for their beans. They believe that the only way in which Maraná can grow and improve is if their farmers grow too. When we asked them about this, they said “At Maraná, we value the work of our cacao farmers and seek to make a real impact on theirlives and those of their families. We work withthem hand-in- hand, as partners, implementing fair price policies that ensure sustainable development and sound living conditions. We also organize programs aimed at improving their harvesting and post-harvesting techniques and optimizing the quality of their products, thus allowing them to gain access to markets thatoffer higher prices.”
In order for this to be a sustainable approach, very early on Zulema and Giuseppe decided to separate out the cocoa they were sourcing from the three regions. Rather than producing a generic ‘Peruvian’ chocolate, they produce microbatches of chocolate, made from beans from each region. They believe that this micro batch approach would allow them to source the finest potable beans, and that by focussing on a single region for each of their bars, they are able to showcase not only the flavours of Peru as a whole, but the flavours of the individual regions. Zulema and Giuseppe identified three particular regions that they wanted to concentrate on from the start: Cusco, Piura and San Martin.
Their hard work has paid off – not only do their bars taste (and look!) great, but they have also been recognised by a host of international awarding bodies. They received a number of awards in the Latin American leg of the 2017 International Chocolate Awards, and two Silver Awards in the World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards in 2017.
We asked Zulema and Giuseppe a few questions about Marana:
- What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
Maraná was found by my wife (Zulema Leon ) and I Giuseppe Cassinelli, we both study business administration and then make an MBA, we work for more than 10 years in the corporate world, but at some point we feel that our life need to be evolve in an activity that give us joy and also can make an impact in the community. So in 2013 we start searching for different activities that we can see each other doing it with joy. So one day talking with my aunt that live in the US, she told me that she have saw lots of chocolates with Peruvian cacao. So at that point we start searching about Peruvian cacao and start going to the farms to learn more about it. And in that point the ideas of us making chocolate just capture us and we start to get in love with all the cacao and chocolate world.
- When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
We start the project in January of 2014 and we start selling in march of 2015. Now we are 10 people working in Maraná.
- What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
Our mission is to make the best and tasty chocolate that we can and seek to make a real impact in the farmers that work with us.
- Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
We are a new company so in the short term we want to gain more markets, and then develop new bars and new origins. We think the chocolate can give you unlimited possibilities.
- What is the story behind your company name?
We are a passionate chocolate maker and we are proud of our country and want to share it with all the world, that’s why our packaging resembles the Peruvian forms of art from different regions. We also believes that our company can make a different in the life of the farmers that we work with.
- Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging
Our Packaging was desing by a company call ICONO. We are really proud of our packaging because we feel that it transmits our culture in a really artistic and sophisticated way.
- How did you source your beans?
We travel a lot to the farms to meet with the farmers and try their cacao, we work with cooperative and team up with them so we can work together to keep improving the process of post harvest to achieve the best beans we can.
- What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
The mould it was inspire in the form of the palate, the roun form help the chocolate to fit in your palate and in can melt in a pleasant way.
- What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
I love food, pasta, fish, beef and specialy dessert. I like more beer and Ron. I really like Marou chocolates and Dick Taylor.
- What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
The bronze medal in the 2016 world final with Cusco 70% bar, because it was our first batch that we work from the fermentation until the bar, It was a new beginning for our company we become bean to bar.
- Is there anything else you want to tell us, or you think our customers should know?
We are a small Peruvian company and we work every they to improve our chocolate, we believe that we never going to stop learning and our journey in making chocolate has just begin.
Marana In The Chocolate Library