Chocolate in South America: A Key Ingredient With A Rich History
Life is just a bit sweeter with a tasty morsel of the world’s finest chocolate or any chocolate for that matter. This magic bean, transformed into decadent bars, children’s cookies, creamy shakes, and countless other delectable forms, satisfies the world’s sweet tooth. So, we’re curious, where does this delightful treat originate? Some say Mexico. Others proclaim South America. Still, others claim it originates from West Africa.
While the ancestry of chocolate remains a mystery, one thing is for sure: chocolate was discovered long before this generation of consumers and continues to prove that it’s here to stay for the ages. The history of chocolate is rich (all puns are intended) and involves multiple countries around the world. However, in this entry, SouthAmerica.travel explores chocolate’s earliest traces in South America and the unique ways this desired treat is enjoyed.
Chocolate in Brazil
Brazil, a country renowned for futebol (aka “soccer”) and the colorful Rio Carnival, is one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa and chocolates. Some scholars believe that Brazil is the “Birthplace of Chocolate”, according to studies which show cocoa plants first grew in the Amazon basin from a native plant called theobroma cacao. This small evergreen tree is endemic to the tropical regions of the Americas. It thrives in the Amazon Rainforest and other tropical areas due to the excess of sun and rain. Its cocoa beans are used to produce cocoa mass, confectionery, ganache and of course, chocolate. What makes Brazilian cocoa unique is that its cultivation integrates into the native forests which generate a unique aura, texture, and flavor.
In addition to cocoa’s savory flavor, cocoa farms help rejuvenate the surrounding area. Compared to ranching, cocoa can provide income from a relatively small plot with no need for constant expansion. Cocoa plantations also can imitate natural forests, which helps restore native plant and wildlife species. There’s nothing more satisfying than a treat that’s helping the environment and the local community.
Brigadeiro is one of the most popular chocolate desserts in Brazil. Its origins date back to 1940 when Brigadeiro was created as a sweet drink due to the art of refrigeration. Later, it was transformed into a delicious ball of condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter, and chocolate sprinkles. If you’re at a bakery, a wedding, a party or any event, you can expect Brigadeiro to be served.
Chocolate in Ecuador
Ecuador is also a strong representative in South America’s history of chocolate. A recent archaeological study suggested that Ecuador may have been the original home of the cocoa bean. The discovery, made in Ecuador’s southern Amazonian region, suggests that cocoa beans were being harvested and consumed more than 5,000 years ago. More recently, over the last decade, the demand for more flavorful cocoa has risen, and Ecuador has emerged as the pre-eminent exporter of fine beans.
Today, Ecuador is at the forefront of selling fair trade chocolate and produces 60% of the world’s finest flavor of cacao, famous for its taste of blackcurrants and spice. Several fine chocolate brands have demanded space in the markets of Europe, the Americas, and Asia, thereby providing work and increased income for local farmers.
Ecuador may produce fine chocolate, but locals prefer something simpler such as a milk chocolate bar. They leave the high-end chocolate to be exported.
Chocolate in Colombia
Ecuador’s neighbor Colombia is an adequate contender in the production of fine chocolate. 95% of Colombia’s cacao exports are considered “Fine Flavour” by the International Cacao Organisation. Similar to the Amazon, chocolate does a lot of good for the Colombian community. The Colombian government has made efforts to help farmers switch from selling illegal crops to cacao, with increasing success. With high demand and international markets, Colombian farmers have grown loyal to the magic bean. Once a closely-guarded secret, Colombia’s cacao production has increased by tens of thousands of tonnes in recent years.
Colombians prefer to drink their chocolate, preferably in the morning with a side of cheese or for a merienda (snack). In the evening they indulge in bread with chocolate, or chocolate with cheese. During the weekends, it is traditional to have tamales and chocolate for breakfast.
Chocolate in Peru
Peru is ranked #9 for cocoa producers in the world, according to the UN Food Agriculture Organization. In Peru, cacao is cultivated mostly in the regions between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest. Many of the cacao farms are in extremely rural areas, making the transportation of the crop very difficult. Fortunately, cacao beans are resistant to heat and long periods of transportation, so the Peruvian beans can be shipped all over the world while retaining the delicious flavor we all know and love.
Any chocolate fanatic should visit the ChocoMuseo in Cusco, Peru on a Peru Chocolate Tour. Learn how a cacao bean transforms into a chocolate bar, and discover the art of roasting and grinding the cacao beans into a tasty paste. Guided workshops in chocolate-sculpting, cupcake-making, and truffle-filling are available for travelers looking to take an indulgent souvenir back home to friends and family.
High-end Peruvian chocolate mostly serves clients from all over the world, rather than domestic residents. Mayan-style hot chocolate or a Mocaccino made with coffee from the Peruvian highlands is popular. However, surprisingly, local Peruvians prefer to eat less-expensive Brazilian chocolate instead of their own fine chocolate.
Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, all share a strong history of chocolate. With the help of an expert travel consultant, visit South America and experience the delightfulness of chocolate and understand why this tasty treat is so integral to South American culture.
SouthAmerica.travel is a tour operator specialized in custom South America tour planning for travelers worldwide from its offices in Seattle, Lima, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Stuttgart. The website offers hundreds of sample itineraries as well as local phone numbers in 88 countries. SouthAmerica.travel offers 4-star & 5-star South America tours to Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and more. Licensed and bonded in the U.S., SouthAmerica.travel has been sharing its love of travel to South America since 1999 and is proud of its A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau and ASTA affiliation. SouthAmerica.travel – Our name is our passion™