By Valentina Bosia
Chuncho cacao is an ancient variety that has been cultivated in the region of Cusco, Peru, for thousands of years. Researchers have identified it as a distinct genetic group and believe it could be the “mother” of all fine cacao.
Chuncho’s small fruits and beans are renowned for their high fat content, which makes them an excellent choice for coating chocolate due to exceptional melt and creaminess.
The farmers’ careful post-harvest processing allows for a very balanced expression of flavor, with woody cognac sweetness, strong cinnamon notes, and sweet fruity wine and toffee flavors. The perfume of vanilla and freshly brewed green tea adds to the flavor experience, making it feel like sipping on a hot cocoa beverage with the Incas.
Despite its significance, Chuncho was on the brink of extinction due to growing numbers of abandoned farms. Thankfully, local and international organizations have stepped up to protect and promote this rare cacao. These organizations are working to give the community the resources necessary to reforest their cacao farms and regenerating the ecosystem, promoting long-term sustainability
By economically incentivizing the growth of this rare and vital varietal, these organizations are helping to preserve this endangered cacao and promote cacao biodiversity. Through their efforts, Chuncho has been saved from being lost and is now thriving, with over 300 families actively growing it.
One of the main actors involved in the preservation of Chuncho cacao is the Alto Urubamba cooperative.
With the support of local organizations like APPCacao, they’ve implemented trainings in quality control and post-harvest management, helping their associates to produce award winning cacao. They also provide support for the installation of clonal gardens, which preserve the ancestral genetics of Chuncho and ensure its continued existence.
The results of these efforts have not gone unnoticed by chocolate makers. Many of them have expressed interest in Chuncho cacao due to its incredibly complex flavor profile, story and rarity.
In addition to its unique flavor, Chuncho cacao is also important for its role in promoting biodiversity in the region. By actively supporting the cultivation of the rare cacao by local farmers, they are making a significant contribution to the preservation of the native forest, which serves as a vital piece of our shared history. Moreover, they are playing a crucial role in promoting and sustaining the diverse range of species that depend on the region’s biodiversity.
Flavor notes in chocolate
Top notes: Orange Blossom, Peach, Almonds
Heart notes: Green Tea, Vanilla, Fruity Wine
Base notes: Toffee, Cinnamon, Woody Cognac
Varietal composition: Chuncho (30% lila; 0% white)
Fermentation method: cascade-type boxes
Pre-drying: 24h; 6 cm
Drying: 6 days on wooden tables