I came back some weeks ago from a wonderful trip to Peru with five other Quebecers working in the chocolate industry: Isabella, my colleague at Miss Choco, Daniel and Alcina (Chocolats Monarque, Montréal), and Sylviane and Narada (Chocolaterie Le Cacaoyer, L’Assomption). We went to Peru as “business volunteers” thanks to the Uniterra program, created by CECI and WUSC-EUMC. During those two weeks, we had the opportunity to meet with Peruvian bean-to-bar chocolate makers (1), visit plantations in the region of San Martin and meet professionals from all over the world that are involved in the chocolate industry. 

1er-restau-Lima Our delegation on the first day in Lima. With Christian Clément and Roy Vera Chung. Credits: Roy Vera Chung

This trip to Peru was very special for me for a lot of different reasons. First of all, I visited my first cacao plantation in this country, in October of 2010. I was put in contact with Norandino (a coop from Piura, called at that time Cepicafe), thanks to Martin Christy (2). I was reading about chocolate for two years, but it was not yet the true passion that would change my life. I can say for sure that my passion was born there, in this small cacao farm in Buenos Aires, Peru.

My first plantation My first cacao plantation visit in Buenos Aires (Piura) in 2010.

The fact that WUSC-EUMC was one of the organizations involved in our delegation is another reason explaining why this trip was so special for me. During my studies at l’UQAM, I was a volunteer in our local committee. I was very happy to be involved again in a WUSC project and to get to know their Peruvian team! Our delegation visited their office in Lima, where we had the pleasure of meeting the executive director, Chris Eaton, who is based in Ottawa but traveling to Peru during the same time. We had several in-depth discussions with him about our work, bean-to-bar chocolate, cacao trade, etc.

At the WUSC office At the WUSC office in Lima. Credits: Isabella Geddes.
Uniterra staff Uniterra staff in Lima.

In planning our visit to Peru, I was looking forward to seeing Francesca Valdivia again, founder of Q’uma Chocolate. It was in part because of her that our delegation was made possible. Francesca is a young, passionate and inspiring woman. The connexion between us was instantaneous. She came to Montreal last April for the Salon International de l’Alimentation (SIAL) and during that time, she also visited my store, La Tablette de Miss Choco. The idea of going to Peru to attend the Salon del Cacao y el Chocolate originated at that meeting. If you would like to know more about her, read this article on CECI’s website.

Discussion with Francesca Valdivia Discussion with Francesca Valdivia from Q'uma Chocolate. Credits: Isabella Geddes

Francesca and I, as well as the Miss Choco team, share the same vision on a lot of issues, including direct trade and the importance of education to further develop the artisanal bean-to-bar movement. Isabella and I talked a lot with Francesca about how she buys cacao beans. In the following video, she explains why it is so important for her to buy directly from the farmers and to personally know the producers, not only the coop administrators.

In Peru, we went to the factory were Francesca makes chocolate. It’s in Pachacamac, a suburb of Lima, in the middle of the desert. The factory is owned by Lisi Montoya (Shattell), another female bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Francesca shares Lisi’s equipment, but she plans on setting up her own factory in the next year.

Lisi and Francesca are a sign that the chocolate and cacao industry in Peru are undergoing profound change. Men are still the major presence in cacao plantations and bean-to-bar chocolate factories but increasingly women are getting involved. Isabella and I were lucky enough to discuss this issue with Francesca during the Salón del Cacao y el Chocolate Perú. As you will hear in the following video (in Spanish), she wishes that more women will be involved in cacao cultivation. She also points out that, in her view, it is important for women to help each other in Peru.

 

Francesca+Bertilla Francesca Valdivia with Bertilla Mori. Credits: Francesca Valdivia

It is an undeniable fact, the chocolate industry is quickly changing in Peru. In the coming years, it will be interesting to follow it’s development. I will talk about that in my next article. Stay tuned!

 

(1) Bean-to-bar: the chocolate maker buys the cacao beans and make everything from the scratch.

(2) Martin Christy is, amongst other things, the founder of the Seventy Percent website and also one of the founder of the International Chocolate Awards.