Peru is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you think of the world’s finest chocolate producers. But, the cacao bean has been cultivated in Latin America for at least three millennia, and hot chocolate was drunk long before it hit the cafés of the Western world.
If you’re a chocolate-lover heading for Cusco (once the coronavirus is under control and global travel restrictions are lifted), you will be delighted to learn that this Andean city has a delicious secret up its sleeve. While waiting in anticipation of feasting your eyes on Machu Picchu, indulge your tastebuds at ChocoMuseo and the boutique shop Chocolate for a taste of Cusco’s best chocolatey offerings.
Choco Museo is centrally located in Plaza Regocijo and should be any chocolate-lover’s first stop in Cusco. Fast becoming a must-see for visitors, and with other branches across Latin America – including Lima, the museum offers chocolate-making workshops that are simply too good to resist.
After learning the fascinating journey of how the cacao bean is made into a chocolate bar, you can put on your chocolate-maker’s hat and learn the process of roasting and grinding the cacao beans into a tasty paste, and finally refine the chocolate into your own bar that you can take back home as a souvenir for later indulgence.
The best thing is knowing that these cacao beans are grown in the jungle just beyond Machu Picchu. The founders of ChocoMuseo have teamed up with local Peruvian farmers in a small cooperative there to produce the high-quality beans that make their way up to Cusco.
You can even opt for your own tailor-made workshop, choosing from classes such as chocolate sculpting, cupcake making and truffle filling. Reward your hard work in the café with a heavenly menu of brownies, buns and fondues, which can be washed down with a Mayan-style hot chocolate or a Mocaccino made with coffee from the Peruvian highlands.
The magic of jungle chocolate
A few blocks over from ChocoMuseo, on the tourist-friendly street of Choquechaca in the San Blas neighborhood, is another tantalizing development in the form of a boutique chocolate shop – called, funnily enough, Chocolate. Patricia Yep Luy set up this chocolate paradise 11 years ago and has filled a niche market with her scrumptious artisan produce.
Patricia explains that the chocolate in Cusco is special because it’s made from cacao chuncho, named after the jungle zone of Chunchada.
“They have a fine aroma and are probably the best cacao in Peru – very superior in taste to a hybrid cacao,” she says.
She makes her products with pure cacao paste made by the oldest manufacturers from the Cusco region.
Word is spreading and travellers flock to Patricia’s store for a sweet fix during those chilly Cusco evenings. Some are even strong-willed enough to carry a box of chocolates all the way back home for someone special.
- Rachel Ricks lives and breathes travel. She has become particularly fond of Peru as she loves big mountains and ancient cultures, so she ended up living there for six months. She likes the challenge of travelling on a budget and she makes a point of really getting to know places inside-out.