Location: Urubamba Valley, Cusco
Tasting Notes: Passionfruit, Red berries, Sweet basil
Varieties: Chunco and Native Criollos
Fermentation Style: TBD
Drying Style: TBD
Elevation: 400 - 1200 meters
Harvest Season: Main Harvest April- July
The Cusco beans come from the Cusco department, located southern Peru, where the Andes meets the jungle and are harvested at altitudes that range from about 400 to 1200 meters above sea level.
Cusco origin beans are made up of mainly of a variety of Chunchos (~65%), VRAE-15, VRAE-99, Criollo, and various other native varieties. The beans are bought specifically from small farmers that make up the Co-op CAC Alto Urubamba, situated in the famous Urubamba valley.
The beans typically have a high diversity of fruit flavors (tropical, some citric and red fruits) and some floral profiles, higher % of fat than usual, and lower % of tannins, and the bean size is on average smaller than typical which come from smaller pods, with this said, the cacao pods also vary in size and in color. Colors of pods vary between yellow, green, and rose.
Historically (going back hundreds of years to pre-colonizing times), Cusco has been the region that has had the highest production of cacao in Peru. After colonization and commercialization of cacao in the jungle departments (north of Peru: Amazonas, San Martin, Huánuco), Cusco has fallen in the production scale compared to the other departments - mainly because the other departments have scaled up dramatically their productions (as an alternative to coca plant harvesting).
The zone in Cusco where cacao is traditionally from is the Urubamba valley and was the main valley where the Incas used to travel between the Andes mountains and Amazon jungle. It was also where they would meet the jungle natives for trade purposes. This is also the Valley where the last Incan emperor (Manco Inca) fled to and hid when the Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru.
Amazon Specialties SAC as a social enterprise works directly with farmers, farming associations, and coops, and for this Cusco origin we have been supporting a cooperative from the famous Urubamba Valley. The coop named CAC Alto Urubamba is made up of small holder farming members situated in the Urubamba valley.…we have been working with this cooperative for many years. They are very established, have a good relationship with their farming members… and now also have a chocolate making branch! We (Amazon Specialties) helped them develop this chocolate making branch by providing them with the know-how through some of our free chocolate seminars, and also provided Premier refiners.
Their chocolate program has grown. They now have 3 refiners of 4.5kg, and 1 of 10kg, and are producing chocolate that is getting better and better. You have to understand that this is very very rare in Peru. A co-operative in the middle of the jungle, pushing forward with their farmer-members to not only be producers of cacao but also chocolate makers. They have become trail blazers. This co-operative is one that has the most influential in Cuzco Department, and this movement has sprouted many others in the region to also become chocolate makers. (Fun side note: in 2019, during the International Chocolate Awards in Peru, Aurelio (CEO of Amazon Specialties) was a judge, and he actually recognized the chocolate from this co-operative when judging)
We are very happy for this growth and direction. As more producers become chocolate makers, they will be automatically bridging the gap – and will ultimately understand how their harvesting, fermenting, and drying processes affect their quality in chocolate making. And thus, ultimately providing better cacao for other chocolate makers around the world. This chocolate making initiative is making the farmers more money, bringing them additional revenue streams, and thus contributing to a more sustainable way of life.
There are a few cacao producers in Cusco that now have their own chocolate brand and a brick-and-mortar store. One is a block away from the main plaza in Cuzco city! This type of added value to their products will help them come out of poverty. (Another Fun Side Note: Amazon Specialties has provided (sold or gifted) more than 50 Premier Refiners to various co-ops and farmers in this area. More than 300 nation-wide. We want Peru to not just be a cacao producing country, but also a chocolate producing country)