On Friday I spent the day surrounded by chocolate.
Proper Peruvian chocolate.
I was in heaven as you can probably imagine.
Every year the Salon del Cacao exhibits some of the best chocolate that Peru has to offer.
I went last year when the event was held in the Parque de la Reserva (downtown) in a few huge marquees, but this year they moved it to a slightly more commuter, and tourist, friendly Miraflores. Although this move meant downsizing to fit into the space, it did not downsize on the quality of the products on offer.
We arrived at the Centro de Convenciones Maria Angola just before lunch (opposite the hotel of the same name) excited to begin our chocolate adventure.
I have a few old favourites already but there were new favourites to be found and I was on a mission to find them!
Luckily each stall has a number of tasters so that you can find the flavours and the intensity of chocolate that suits you.
My first stop was to talk to the very helpful lady on the Q’uma stand. She talked to me about the ingredients used (all natural) in their chocolate, that it was certified organic and that it was 100% Peruvian
These are, however, not unusual traits in this hall full of Peruvian chocolate. The companies here are making amazing chocolate using home-grown cacao, and are trying to do this in the best way possible. Keeping everything as natural as they can.
I can’t speak for the manufacturing process of all of the chocolatiers, but a large number that I spoke to proudly shared their organic status and all natural ingredients.
The chocolate from Q’uma was really lovely to eat and they had a number of interesting flavours like cocoa nibs or aguaymanto (golden berries, physalis….). I loved the combination of the 70% dark with the acidity and sweetness of the dried aguaymanto. Spot on.
I was tempted by the beautiful looking cakes and cupcakes on the Sugar Lab stand but I told myself to wait until the end and have one to take away!
Sugar Lab is a bakery and chocolatier all in one, making themed chocolates of all different kinds as well as those tempting cakes! They also run workshops in store on how to make cakes, shape figures out of fondant, make truffles and much more, including workshops that are just for children.
Pulling myself away from there, I found myself wandering around the hall, checking out the different displays and different options on offer. I discovered a number of stalls selling sugar free chocolate, perfect for diabetics. I believe the number of these products available here in Peru have grown in number over the last year, which is excellent news.
While I was wandering, I noticed that the Choco Museo was there making chocolate filled crepes!!
I attended one of their workshops on chocolate making and I thoroughly recommend attending one if you want to learn about how chocolate is made.
So much chocolate!
Orquidea is a name that has become commonplace in the stores and supermarkets of Lima, and their chocolate is very tasty.
My favourite of their bars has to be the Moka, a beautiful mix of 65% cocoa and coffee that they informed me is in fact grown in the same place as their cacao, in Tarapoto. They even manufacture their chocolate right in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.
In the middle of the exposition, at the back, is a demonstration stage, where chocolatiers from Peru and elsewhere in the world, come and do a demonstration to show how to make different kinds of chocolate items. When I was there Giovanna Maggiolo, owner of Peruvian chocolate store Xocolatl, was on stage.
Next, I stumbled upon a brand that I thought I had come across before, and I’m now sure that their chocolate is going to be a new favourite in my house.
Domenico‘s chocolate is absolutely delightful to eat. Silky smooth, and the kind of chocolate you just want to keep on your tongue and let melt in your mouth.
They have bars with 3 different percentages of cocoa solids; 37% (milk), 48% (getting darker…) and 70% (beautiful dark chocolate). They have a plain bar with no flavourings of each percentage of cocoa solids, and then 2 more bars with complementary flavours. The Cookies and Mint (37%) was a treat to eat, and I purchased the Hazelnut to try too! At 48% I gave in to my childhood cravings and picked up a Peanut & Raisin bar, and for my 70% choice I thought the Blueberries would make a good contrast to the dark chocolate.
After the excitement in finding a new favourite, I found comfort in an old favourite; La Iberica.
La Iberica is a household name in Peru, and hails from the city of Arequipa. They make very good quality chocolate but at affordable prices, which means everybody loves it!
The beautifully wrapped and designed Gianduja bar was an easy choice to make for my next purchase. Nutty, praline chocolates have always been a favourite of mine, ever since I had the Alpini chocolates from Thorntons (in England) as a young child, and then this favourite was cemented by the stunning Godiva chocolates I had in Belgium. I also love the way that this Gianduja bar is wrapped in gold paper, because it makes me feel like I’ve found the golden ticket in a Wonka Bar…..
…..and at my next stop, I was sure I had!
I had tried Cacaosuyo‘s chocolate before, but I was desperate to have a taste of the bar that won Gold in the Americas section of the International Chocolate Awards last year. The 60% bar is made from organic cacao from the Piura region in the north of Peru (the cacao has a slightly fruity flavour up there!), and it is filled with a mixture of 40% sugar free milk chocolate which is sweetened by yacon syrup (a natural sweetener made from the Andean tuber) and then flavoured with the camu camu fruit, both of which are native to Peru and therefore extra special!
This chocolate is gorgeous, and I bought one on the spot!
A tip for any baking people out there. They also sell plain ‘cobertura’ (covering) chocolate by the kilo in 3 different percentages for around S/40, which is a bargain for the amount and quality of chocolate you are getting.
After a happy little trip to Cacaosuyo my dreams were a little shattered by the fact that the ‘Dreams of Eva‘ stand was closed, and I had been looking forward to purchasing a couple of their stunning little filled chocolates to try. Rumour has it that they are amazing (they also won awards at the International Chocolate Awards), so I’ll just have to head to the store instead!
My sadness did not last for long however as I found what I had been looking for in the chocolate of Maraná.
Another chocolatier I had been meaning to sample, and everything about these bars just invites you in to try.
The packaging has a modern design but with traditional elements at the same time. The name Maraná is set deeply in ‘the roots of Peruvian chocolate’, and it even says that on each bar. Maraná means batán in Quechua (the native Peruvian language), which is a stone instrument, like a big, flat pestle and mortar, that was used to make the chocolate in the past.
Their chocolate is made from cacao from 3 different regions – Cusco, Piura (in the north of Peru) and San Martín (the northern part of the Peruvian rainforest). From each region you can choose from bars of 80%, 70%, 60%, and 40%, which are all plain with no extra flavourings. They don’t need them.
This chocolate is stunning and I went straight for the 80% from each region. From San Martín the chocolate was unbelievably velvety and not at all bitter in taste and from Piura the chocolate had that fruity edge that is so noticeable in the cacao from that area. Both were stunning, but the chocolate from Cusco was my absolute favourite. The cacao had more of a bitter note and therefore gave the chocolate an incredible depth. Possibly my favourite chocolate of the whole day in fact!
I actually loved everything about Maraná; their presentation, their chocolate, and their staff, who were so wonderfully informative.
I finished up my trip with a quick peek at the chocolate sculpture of the Taj Mahal and I was off home with a hoard of chocolate that probably won’t see me through the weekend…..
The Salon del Cacao is on for one more day. so head into Miraflores tomorrow and spend your Sunday discovering so much more about Peruvian chocolate and the cacao that is grown here.
Take the whole family, because tomorrow there is a chocolate workshop just for children from 4.00-6.30!
Salon del Cacao, CC Maria Angola, 610 La Paz, Miraflores
Tickets available on the door for S/10.