2015 was undoubtedly the year of Cacaosuyo’s consolidation. Their Piura Milk Bar was awarded the “Best Origin Milk Chocolate” prize at the Chocolate Week in London, the Oscars in the fine chocolate industry. In just two years since its inception, this brand has secured a reputation as a chocolate of excellence. In 2014, they obtained the second place. Its prestige has spread rapidly, receiving requests and orders from all over the world.
Founders of Cacaosuyo, Peruvian entrepreneurs Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco, may proudly say that they achieved their objective when they partnered in this adventure three years ago: to produce the best Peruvian fine chocolate.
“There were several good chocolates in Peru, but no other brand had achieved this level of excellence in the prestigious competition,” Giha explains.
When the two entrepreneurs met, neither one had experience in the chocolate industry. Giha was successful in the textiles sector and Lanfranca in the hydroelectricity business. When they learned that the Peruvian government was boosting this crop as an alternative to the production of coca leafs, they decided to invest in this industry and created Cacaosuyo.
For over a year they learnt how to make chocolate, assisted by Venezuelan expert Gladys Ramos. “It took a while because we were not satisfied with the quality of cacao we were getting. There were many flaws”, Giha recalls.
The origin of these flaws was in the harvesting to fermentation and drying. Giha described practices they had to improve to perfect the cacao seeds. For instance, some harvesters used to cut the cacao fruit with the machete. “By doing this, they also cut some cacao seeds, allowing germs to get in and start an inadequate fermentation process. These cacao beans ended up mixed with the rest of the batch, and you had a flaw from the very beginning”.
Another usual mistake was to cover the wood boxes for the cacao fruit with plastic, raising the temperature creating a boiling effect. Covering the cacao beans with banana leafs is a traditional practice that stimulates better fermentation, but sometimes, if the leafs are placed on the wrong side, the process does not offer the expected results. Or, if the wood boxes had occasionally protruding nails, they could contaminate the fruit.
Cacaosuyo established a “tree-to-bar” quality system, selecting the cacao fruits in the trees, buying their harvest and doing themselves the rest of the processing, from fermentation to drying, storage, and transportation. “We have 100% traceability”,
Giha remarks. “We don’t need to seed the cacao beans. The producers do that well.
That’s the secret: Attention in all stages of the processes, implementation of good practices to guarantee all conditions for an excellent end product.”
Cacaosuyo has added to the international reputation of Peruvian fine chocolate. “An Amazonian zone between Peru and Ecuador, and not Mexico, is now considered the origin of cacao,” says Giha. Despite this, Peru has been off the map as cacao producer until a decade ago. Peruvian cacao is of high quality because of the diversity of the country. The region where it grows has been preserved like a “time capsule.” The failure of the 1969’s agrarian reform and the internal armed conflict in the 80’s and 90’s delayed agricultural development in Peru. That’s why “we still have all the original varieties that haven’t been replaced by other more productive but with less quality. And the cacao growing under the canopy of the primary forest has not been exposed to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
“We have found some wonder untouched, as the white cocoa from Piura,” a region in the north of Peru that provides the best raw ingredients we use in Cacaosuyo.”
The company also buys wild cacao beans collected by the Awajun, an Amazonian indigenous people. These seeds are used to make one of the current seven different bars of Cacaosuyo. The line will have this year’s beans from Cuzco.
The company bets on sustainability even if that means paying a higher price. Better compensation to the growers motivates them to keep offering these unique varieties, that are less productive but of higher quality. “We don’t want the cocoa to get cheaper by losing the variety”, Giha says.
Cacaosuyo has also helped a small producers’ association to sell cacao beans directly to international buyers. “We believe in sustainability. The small farmer should get a fair price.”
In 2015, Cacaosuyo processed ten tons of cocoa with exports to the U.K, France, Belgium, and Japan. They could not attend requests from other countries, such as the U.S and Australia. This year they plan to get 40 to 50 metric tons. Besides the chocolate bars, Cacaosuyo also sells processed grains. They plan to attend Salon de Chocolat in Paris and Chocolate Week in London again this year and perhaps other events in New York or Amsterdam.
“The chocolate market is constantly growing,” says Giha. “Like in the wine sector, consumers are discovering a new world of chocolate with distinct flavors.”
Cacaosuyo aims to take chocolate lovers to experience a unique Peruvian cocoa adventure.