Orquidea Chocolate from Peru: a taste & setting as beautiful as its namesake

During the past 2.5 years of my research for Chocolatour, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many chocolate factories. Huge, high tech ones in Switzerland. Tiny, hands-on ones in Peru. And everything in between.

Orquidea Chocolate

But I must say the one that has had a true impact on me in every aspect of chocolate travel is the Orquidea Chocolate factory in Tarapoto, Peru. (You’ll find more about the small city of Tarapoto in the previous post on this blog as well as from this terrific site.)

view-from-orquidea-chocolates

Believe it or not, this is the view from the back door of the Orquidea Chocolate factory on the banks of the Cumbava River. The chocolate is made just miles (not a world away!) from the sites where the cacao is grown.

The word, “orquidea” translates to orchid in English, providing a most appropriate name for a chocolate that offers a beautiful floral bouquet when inhaled. The Peruvians pride themselves in producing cocoa that is highly aromatic and flavourful in its natural state, and I concur! I do believe that Peruvian chocolate just may be the best I have ever eaten.

It is pure, fresh, intense (yet low in acidity), satisfying and unique to itself. It is like no other.

Although I certainly enjoyed the Ecuadorian chocolate we had on the second week of our South American tasting adventure (much more on that in future posts), in my opinion, it is not of the same intensity as the Peruvian.

I want to devote this post to Orquidea, as it provided us with such a unique experience.  Orquidea buys its cocoa from four different growers’ associations within the region, including the Santa Rosa cooperative I highlighted in the previous post. I again want to thank Cristina Satillana, International Sales Manager at Orquidea, for arranging that unforgettable journey for us.

Helping cacao farmers

Orquidea has a strong social conscience and helps train cacao growers in crop management and fermentation procedures to help produce a better and more consistent product.  Operations Manager, Candy Morales Sanchez has a food science degree and is a fermentation specialist. She explained how proper fermentation will lower the acidity found in the cocoa beans, while preserving the good oleic acid contained in cocoa that gives us the natural antioxidants to help strengthen our immune systems. You know that pure cocoa is a super food, don’t you?

candy-morales-is-a-fermentation-specialist

Orquidea’s Operations Manager, Candy Morales, is a fermentation specialist

Orquidea completes the fermentation process of the beans it purchases on-site at its Tarapoto location under the heat of the Peruvian sun. Fermenting the beans is quite a science. The goal is to end up with beans that have an even, dark brown centre. A purple tint means that a proper fermentation process has not been completed and the beans are under-fermented. Too dark of a brown, and it means they’ve been fermented too much and the resulting chocolate will taste burnt.

fermenting-cocoa-beans

fermenting cocoa beans is an exact science

Orquidea chocolate bars

We sampled a few bars in Orquidea’s tiny tasting room and I’m in love – with the 60% organic dark Peruvian Amazon chocolate with cocoa nibs. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a better chocolate bar, for its intensity and freshness of flavour combined with the overwhelmingly beautiful floral scent that is naturally emitted from the chocolate. (Can you tell I’m in love?)

The interesting thing is that the 60% cocoa in this bar produced a deep, rich chocolate, whereas I’ve had 60% chocolate from other producers and the chocolate wasn’t dark and rich enough for my liking. So it is indeed, all in the quality of the beans, the fermentation process and the staff and equipment used to produce the final result.

As independent cocoa expert, Brian Horsley, told me at our chance meeting at the Orquidea plant: “Orquidea does the best work with the least amount of equipment, resulting in a superb quality to their product.”

You can order Orquidea bars in the US via this website: http://www.orquidea-usa.com/. There is also this site which I believe will get Orquidea chocolate to you worldwide via a Google store.

I’ve rambled on long enough for this go round, but please join us back here the week of May 21st for our next Peruvian post.

And please share your thoughts on this post. I hope I’ve enticed and educated you just a little. And I’m very curious to hear from anyone who has tasted any Peruvian chocolate, or any other chocolate whose natural (unflavoured) aromatic scent was just as enticing as its flavour.

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25 Comments

  1. You take good notes (and pics), D. That’s pretty much how I remember it, but you’ve added some details that I think your audience will find fascinating.

  2. Doreen
    Twitter:

    Thanks, Virginia. I do indeed take detailed notes (except when I’m trekking thru the jungle!) It was so great having you along on this journey of chocolate exploration. Your insights are different than mine, coming from your scientific background. So it was always great hearing your questions and comments on everything we learned.

    • We are indeed complementary. Hard to believe two people that are so entirely different can appreciate each others style and insight so much. You really nailed this one. The book is going to be a hit.

  3. Linda Strange

    Wow! I get the sensation of being there with you, from your descriptions. I’d almost swear I was sniffing as you tell us about the nose of this chocolate. Love the photos.
    LL

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Thanks so much, Linda. Glad to have you along on the virtual journey with us.

      Yes, I was so very impressed with the aromatic qualities of this chocolate. You better get out to Matlock quickly! The stash is very quickly diminishing.

  4. It’s Cheryl from LinkedIn. I have a secret thing going on with dark chocolate. Your site is like heaven!
    Cheryl recently posted..In Support of The Humane SocietyMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Glad to indulge your secret pleasure, Cheryl. And this is just a tease! The book will have a lot more juicy and enticing tidbits to feed your passion. Stay tuned!

  5. OK, I am now hooked. I’m now off to buy some of this amazing sounding chocolate. I also so want to visit Peru and see this amazing place for myself … Sigh … someday. But at least I can get the chocolate. :D, Susan Cooper
    Susan Cooper recently posted..My Favorite Reads & Drawing ToolsMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Right on, Susan! I hope that whatever you receive from Orquidea will taste as wonderful and fresh as what I ate on-site at the factory. If you do get some, let me know how you like it.

  6. Of all of the chocolate you’ve described, or brought for tasting, this one sounds the most intriguing. I can’t wait to sample some–or just order it!
    Your pictures are gorgeous, and the way you’ve described not only the chocolate making process, but everything really puts me there. What wonderful experiences you’ve had on this journey. I can’t wait to read this book where you put them all together.

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Thanks so much, Christine.

      I do feel the interest in the book and the momentum building. It’s been a long time coming, but I feel it’s finally drawing near. Thanks so much for your support.

  7. Doreen, thank you so much for your kind words. It is always wonderful for me to know that I am not just partial to our chocolates and that they are that truly amazing to other chocolate lovers as well!

    You are right about the flavor of chocolate being directly affected by the type of bean and very specifically the type of post harvest management. That is to say, the fermentation process. The growing, harvesting, fermentation, roasting and processing of the cocoa bean is extremely technical. It is truly a science that goes into producing an exceptional chocolate. I think that often times we depend on a label or a brand to tell us that we are eating a “good” chocolate, but it is really hard to say unless you know what sort of care and handling those beans have had. This is why bean to bar factories are so popular with chocolate lovers. We do focus on this important aspect of the chocolate making process.

    Peru does have a very special kind of cocoa and there is great pride in agricultural products in general. With your encouragement, I will be sharing more in detail some of my experiences in the cocoa industry in Peru. Our trip together was wonderful and are the sorts of experiences and knowledge worthy of sharing! Thank you for the nudge! My brand new blog is “www.cocoaperu.com”.

    Always look forward to reading your next post! Thanks again for your sharing your positive impressions of Peru and our chocolate!

    Cristina

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Lovely to hear from you, Cristina!

      I’m so glad you have started your own blog to tell the world about the wonders of Peruvian chocolate. Together … we’ll spread the word!

    • Hey, nice to find you on Doreen’s blog, Cristina, and congrats on launching your own. FYI, our Italian grocer (but not our Peruvian one !) is now stocking organic ginger from Peru. It is out of this world with flavour, even after travelling that long distance.

      • That’s great to hear Virginia. Peru has some amazing agricultural products. Many superfoods as well! Enjoy!

  8. Hi Doreen

    Thank you for a really inspiring post. The Orquidea Chocolate factory sounds amazing and I want to jump on a plane and visit too!

    It’s always good to hear about companies with a strong social conscience and I’m going to do some research to see whether their chocolate has reach UK shores yet.

    The chocolate with nibs sounds divine, and nibs are something I put in my raw chocolate too …that added crunch and richness is just magic …and it’s always good to celebrate that chocolate is a superfood, with amazing super powers, and I just love being liberated and empowered by the foods that I eat!

    Thanks again,
    Sarah

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Thanks so much for joining the blog, Sarah. I hope you’ll stick around for future posts, as I’ll also be visiting an organic cacao cooperative in Ecuador in future posts that produces delicious, healthy chocolate as well. As you and I both know, chocolate is and can be good for you in addition to tasting divine!

      By the way, I’m very sure you can get Orquidea Chocolate in the UK as they are definitely marketing/selling in Europe. If you have trouble with the other site listed in the article, try e-mailing info@cacaointernational.com. That comes from the Swedish site (no English on the site) but that is the website shown on one of the Orquidea bars I have. Good luck!

  9. Doreen — what a great journey you’re on to these chocolate factories. Such an interesting story. I just learned a new tip this past week — to spread pure cocoa on steak before grilling or broiling it. Adds to the taste and holds the juices in. Of course, you’ll never experience the rich chocolate flavor you’re raving about.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted..Delta Needs a New Brand Name for “Economy Comfort” ClassMy Profile

  10. Doreen
    Twitter:

    Hi Jeannette! Nice to have you join the conversation.

    Interesting about the cocoa on steak. I hadn’t heard that one before, but it makes sense, as I know some people put cocoa in their gravy.

    Chocolate makes the world go round!

  11. Ohmy, I would love to live there for the rest of my life. LOL. I’m feening for chocolates everyday! Everybody loves them, they’re my guilty pleasure!
    Courtney Palmer recently posted..Green Clean: The Eco-Friendly Laundry RoomMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Thanks for joining us here, Courtney.

      Glad you share my enthusiasm in the quest for great chocolate. And yes, Peru is a terrific place to begin your search. Amazing chocolate at every turn. And the food! AWESOME! Stay tuned for more.

  12. Shane

    You are so lucky to see the entire process of making chocolate from cocoa beans with your own eyes. How I wish I will be able to do the same.
    Shane recently posted..jamplay guitar videosMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:

      Yes, I am very lucky, Shane. My journeys over the past 2.5 years have been most enlightening … and tasty!

      I will be sharing them all with you in my upcoming book, so stay tuned! You will be able to take those journeys with me, literally at first, and perhaps on chocolate tours in the future.

      Thanks for joining us here on the blog. I hope you will subscribe and stick around.

  13. analy
    Twitter:

    nice post and i love to visit to orquidea, i love cacao. specially when it is fresh. also we have some grown cacao here.

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