Peru’s chocolate is recognized worldwide, most of the chocolate comes from tropical regions, including the region of San Martin in northern Peru.
During our last trip to Tarapoto, we visited the chocolate factory “Orquidea”, very well known in Peru. We had a guided visit with tastings ! Yummy !
Where to find the chocolate factory Orquidea ?
The chocolate factory is quite close to the Main Square of Tarapoto, you can take a moto- taxi to get there. The address is Santa Monica Jr. 200. In less than 10 minutes you are there. At the end, we leave the asphalt road to drive down a pebble path, but don’t worry ! It’s the right way. The company is located on the bottom to the right, just before the hotel Madera Labrada, an Ecological hotel.
We enter the store and ask if we could have a guided tour. The gentleman behind the counter leaves and returns shortly after to tell us that it is possible! He also brings special equipment, like lab coats, masks and bags for our shoes. The price of the tour including the equipment is 3 soles per person.
Here we are, just at the entrance of the factory, and we put our “fancy dress” on. How funny !! Meanwhile, there is a Peruvian family joining us. They are entitled to the same dresses !
Once ready, our guide explains the operation of the Orquidea factory. They work with different rural communities located about 1:30 h from Tarapoto. In this region, they buy their cocoa beans.
These beans arrive at the chocolate factory still wrapped in a white sweet pulp. Then they have to ferment for 2 – 3 days before they have to dry for about 5 days outside.
Now they place the seeds in jute bags to take them to their dry storage place. This is VERY important so that they don’t deteriorate. From here begins the process in the sizing machine to separate different sizes of seeds.
For us this means that we are entering the factory. We can barely hear our guide. The machines are very noisy, it is hot and the smell of chocolate in the air makes you want one…
I will summarize the chocolate making process for you:
- Calibration : To homogenize the small, medium and large sizes. This is mainly useful for point 2.
- Toasting : Toasting the beans according to their size in an industrial furnace gas during 45 – 50 minutes at about 120°C.
- Peeling :Removing the husk from de cocoa beans in a machine with a strong ventilation. Separating the shells from the grain.
Now we have a 100% pure cocoa for really good chocolate !
Depending on the requirements, they add either milk or sugar to make a chocolate paste. Patissiers and chocolate maker from all over Peru will use this chocolate afterwards. But first, this paste changes from the industrial process to the manual preparation.
In fact, behind the windows, in air – conditioned rooms, there are several women preparing chocolate trays with different fillings: coffee cream, chocolate with quinoa or amaranth, nuts and many more. This has to be done while the cocoa still has a temperature of 30°. Then they put it for 15 – 20 minutes in the refrigerator to keep the desired shape.
Now comes the job of cutting the chocolate from the trays into chocolate bars. The final stage consists in individually packing the chocolate bars before putting them into their Orquidea wrappers.
We leave the factory to make a new tour through the store. We take off our “costume” and pass on to the degustation. Yum! Usually I don’t like Mocca chocolates, but this one was delicious !!
So, while you are traveling in northern Peru, take some time ! Pay a visit to the chocolate factory Orquidea to learn about the cultivation of cocoa – an always present and valued tradition in the San Martin region.