April 12, 2011

World’s rarest chocolate growing in the rainforest gardens of the Asháninka

The Asháninka community in Peru have the world’s finest chocolate ingredient growing on their doorstep, the highly sought after Criollo bean. The beans come from the fruit of the Cacao tree which grows underneath the rainforest canopy.  The Criollo variety of bean account for less than 10% of the world’s chocolate production and are more aromatic and less bitter than the more common Forastero beans.

Last year Cool Earth brought you news of the Cuti- Chocolate Co-operative which united the Peruvian rainforest communities of Parijaro, Tinkareni and Cutivireni to get a fair price for their cacao. Cacao is a valuable source of income for the communities but by selling their cacao to river traders, they were not getting a fair price. The co-operative enabled the communities to travel to Satipo and sell their cacao directly to the processing plant which doubled their income.


Despite much better prices for the cacao, the plant in Satipo still mixes the beans with lower quality cacao from the region. This means the top-end Criollo beans are lost in the mix when they should fetch a much higher price. The Cuti-Chocolate Co-operative is also not yet recognised for growing and harvesting their beans under conditions that would fulfil all organic, fair-trade and rainforest alliance certification. That is why Cool Earth is currently in talks with the world’s finest chocolate makers in Europe and America to sell the eight tonnes of Criollo beans the Asháninka produce each year for a price that this prized chocolate ingredient deserves.

The Asháninka’s ‘chocolate gardens’ managed to escape the devastating flooding that destroyed many of the Asháninka’s other crops this February because the cacao tree generally grows on higher land. With the crop from one cacao tree for an entire year only producing half a kilogram of chocolate the cacao trees are precious to the Asháninka who tend to their cacao crop with much care, even though they have never tasted chocolate as we know it.


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