Cusco’s delectable and deservedly famous chocolate
15 November 2019
What is more delectable and delicious than good chocolate? It is one of the finest foods enjoyed by humans. Even hearing the name of the refined beans of the Thebroma cacao plant, chocolate, inspires cravings and makes mouths water.
True, occasionally you’ll meet people who don’t like it so much, and that’s just fine, but it’s clear that those are in a minority. For most people, chocolate is a delightful food, which for some of us has nearly magical qualities.
Cacao’s history and its name are interesting. Its name comes from its probable place of domestication, Mexico, where the Aztecs nobility used it in ceremonies and called it xocolatl. And its scientific name derives from the Greek “theo”, or god, and “broma” or potion. Yes, the potion of the gods!
From Mexico, cacao spread to Europe and soon gained celebrity status in the realm of sweet treats. But its place of origin is thought to be the Amazon region, where early explorers found different regional varieties. At least four main regional varieties or categories of cacao are known, each with different flavors, colors, aromas, and textures.
And it happens to be that Peru produces some of the best chocolate in the world. The rich soils of the upper Amazon forest are perfect for growing the finest beans.
Expert buyers come from Europe to buy Andean cacao beans, which are exported and refined into the most classic brands of chocolate. However, chocolate manufacture in Peru has also reached new heights.
Our own excellent brands, many of them organic, compete favorably with others from around
the world, and are often winners in international chocolate competitions.
The process of turning the raw beans into cacao, the prime material that becomes chocolate, is complex and quite interesting. It involves harvesting the beans, fermentation in several steps, drying, toasting, grinding and the final step of refining into cacao butter, which is made into the best chocolates.
All parts of cacao pods are used. The pulp is made into chocolate liqueurs, the juice into jams, the powder into hot drinks, and even the husks are animal feed. Don’t confuse cacao with cocoa, which often refers to refined cacao, powdered or in bars, that becomes that delicious cup of hot chocolate.
Chocolate is claimed to offer a range of health benefits: it’s a source of energy, vitamins and antioxidants, improves blood circulation and cardiac health, memory protection, reducing colesterol. All that, and such good flavors- a real wonder food!
Two regions in Peru are renowned for their excellent chocolate- the San Martin region in the north central Amazon, and Cusco in the southeast.
Cusco chocolate originates with what’s known as “chuncho”, a Creole variety. It was originally cultivated by the Matsiguenga tribe, in the Quillabamba and La Conversión, Amazon high forest regions near Cusco, where it is still grown.
Cusco chocolate is smooth and tasty, with a fruity flavor, and is widely enjoyed by local people, often in steaming cups of hot chocolate, a Cusco tradition. True, Peruvians often like our chocolate quite sweet, and some prefer milk chocolate varieties. But semi-bitter chocolate, as well as great combinations of chocolate with exotic tropical fruits, are both rapidly gaining in popularity.
When in Cusco, indulge your sweet tooth by savoring chocolate in its many forms. Our many excellent coffee shops offer not only relaxing cups of hot chocolate, but also rich chocolate cakes, pastries and wide variety of other treats.
You’ll find several brands of fine Peruvian chocolate bars at the best shops. And a visit to the Chocolate Museum, about a block from the main square (there is more than one) is a must for chocolate lovers.
Oh yes, when asking for chocolate in Spanish, it’s easy- like English and do pronounce the middle “o” and the final “e”. Then, you can try this, “Más chocolate, por favor!”.
A trip to Cusco will not only satisfy your chocolate craving; you’ll also experience the full range of tasty foods, cultural traditions, wondrous architecture and the spectacular natural sights of the Andes.
Contact us at andeanlodges.com to reserve your acclimatization trip and fully live the Andean experience!