On multiple occasions, Peru has won the prize for “Best Gastronomic Destination in the World” at the World Travel Awards for the quality and variety of its products such as potatoes, coffee, mango but also its superfoods. Thanks to the diversity of its territory and the richness of its land, Peru is one of the countries with the best cocoa beans. It includes one of the rarest varieties of cocoa in the world, cocoa chuncho! From 2017 to 2021, Peru became the first exporter of certified organic cocoa. The cocoa producers are engaged to respect the environment and the social conditions of their employees.
In this very restrictive year, Peru is the guest of honor of the 1st international competition for chocolates originally produced, organized by the Agency for the Promotion of Agricultural Products of France (AVPA). The pandemic is not stopping the Peruvian companies from accessing new markets and going international. Fifteen Peruvian companies representing the regions of Cusco, Junín, San Martín, Ucayali and Lima, arrived in Paris to participate with their best chocolate bars with fine cocoa of the varieties chuncho, criollo, bellavista, goose, senorita, VRAE - 99. With inclusions of maras salt, coffee, cocoa nibs, passion fruit, elderberry, coconut, sesame, blueberries, aguaymanto and camu camu, Peruvian chocolates highlight the diversity of flavors that will delight the French juries.
Peru, the origin of cocoa
Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L) is endemic of South America. Recent studies from Peru and Ecuador, including archaeologist Quirino Olivera Núñez, record the existence of archaeological cocoa more than 5,000 years old, present long before the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Peru has the largest territorial extension of the center of origin of cocoa in the Amazon, with great diversity and genetic variability of the species. In this sense, the link between the cultivation of cocoa and Peru is welded.
The Andean country produces around 151,622 tonnes of cocoa per year. Currently, cocoa is boosting the economy of thousands of families throughout the basin, with a stable and competitive production of fine-flavored cocoa, in great demand on the international market. 80% of the crops are found on plots of less than 2 ha.
The tropical forest extends over 60% of the Peruvian territory, which makes it the ideal setting for the production of cocoa. Among the cultivated varieties and the wild ones, eight are thus produced in this territory. The main cocoa producing areas are: San Ignacio, Jaén, Bagua Grande Bambamarca (Cajamarca); Tarapoto, Juanjui (San Martin); Tocache, Tingo Maria (Huanuco); Satipo (Junin); Valle del rio Apurimac (Ayacucho); Valle del rio Urubamba, Quillabamba (Cuzco); Rio Huari (Puno).
There are three main varieties of cocoa: the Forastero cocoa, as well as the noble Trinitario and Criollo cocoa. Forastero, considered the ancestor of all varieties of cocoa, is characterized by its very strong cocoa taste, not very aromatic and slightly bitter. This variety thus represents around 80% of world culture. For its part, Criollo is the most refined of the noble cocoas, not very acidic, very weakly bitter. Trinitario cocoa has a powerful cocoa taste rich in aroma and a very slight acidity.
Located in northern Peru, San Martín is the most cocoa-producing region, concentrating 10.9% of national production. Cusco represents 3.6% (fifth producer) and Madre de Dios accounts for 0.2% of production (Source: MINAGRI, 2021).
Cocoa production in Cusco is concentrated in the provinces of La Convencion, the districts of Echarate (86%), Quellouno (7.2%) and Vilcabamba (5.5%). In Madre de Dios, production is concentrated in Tambopata, two departments with a vocation for the production of fine and aromatic cocoas. The La Convencion valley of the Cusco region of Peru is home to 17,832.00 hectares of cocoa, having developed beautiful native varieties of cocoa called "chuncho", among which five main types; pamuco, mountain chuncho, spearhead, achoccha, miss, among others. The fruit of this cocoa is characterized by obtaining a grain with a sweet taste and a floral aroma. This variety allows chocolate makers to make bars with high concentrations of cocoa and to obtain delicate flavors, with low astringency.
In the area of the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers (VRAEM), 929 hectares are dedicated to cocoa production, among which the VRAEM 99 or ganzo and VRAEM 15 varieties stand out.
Cocoa is the 5th most important product nationally by area and the 5th most important product in terms of number of producers.
Rosario Pajuelo, directora de PROMPERU Francia y Confederación Suiza
¿Podría hablarnos de los recientes descubrimientos arqueológicos en torno al cacao?