Posted in Kafevend Blog
Hello, and welcome back to the Kafevend blog! We are sticking in Peru this week after our blog on the country's coffee
on Thursday- this time, we are going to have a look at the role cocoa has played in Peru.
A recent trade
As far as we know, cocoa was not a feature of the Peruvian landscape when the Inca were at the height of their power, despite their close proximity to those Central American peoples such as the Aztec whose lands were positively overflowing with the stuff. At some point however, it did make its way there, no doubt with the Spanish as they spread north and south with fresh conquests.
Like Ecuador to the north, Peru's cocoa trade would have been stymied by its location on the Pacific side of the continent. More recent developments such as the Panama canal- as well as ships that don't rely on the vagaries of the wind- mean that in this modern age, Peru's cocoa industry can thrive, and it has been helped along in this challenge by those who would like to see it replace a less salubrious crop...
At odds with coca
Cocoa has been seen as a way to force out an alternative crop that has been grown in Peru for millenia- coca. Its use in the production of the drug cocaine has given it a very bad image in recent times, but it's perhaps important to put it into context. The leaf itself when chewed releases the stimulant slowly. It has been used in this way- and continues to be used- as a way of making the working day go by more easily and as a way to stave off hunger. Compare this to the custom of drinking beer or wine throughout the day in Europe in past times, and you'll realise it isn't quite so egregious. Our sailors had pretty generous rum rations, to make another point!
When all is said and done though, the cocaine trade is a big problem. Thankfully, cooperatives managed to get their feet under the table quickly as the plan was put into action, meaning farmers will see the benefits of the swap. Recently the turning point was reached where cocoa production was competing with coca production, showing it was a valid replacement and worth all the time and effort. Peru's landscape is also prime territory for growing cocoa, meaning it can establish itself as a purveyor of fine quality cocoa.
That's not to say it doesn't already produce some delicious chocolate of course! If you'd like to get your hands on some, Willie's Cacao
here in the UK has got you covered. Their Peruvian gold bar uses high quality beans from a single estate, with a deliciously dark 70% cocoa content. You can either order it online from their store or find it on the shelves of your local supermarkets- go on and give it a go, we know you want to!