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The Chuao cocoa bean, named after the plantation and defined geographical area from which it is grown, is considered to produce some of the finest chocolate in the world.

Why is Chuao chocolate so special?

The fundamental and first reason that Chuao is so special is because of its pedigree, the variety of cocoa used to create this chocolate. There are many varieties and sub-species of cocoa in the same way there are varieties of grapes, for example. Some varieties of grape creating wine of exceptional quality of course, others inferior quality. Chocolate is no different and the Chuao plantation uses only the finest, the Criollo. This genetic cocoa variety is the most noble of all cocoa varieties, the most sought after by a handful of world leading chocolatiers and also the most expensive. The reason for this is the Criollo yields the most aromatic cocoa of all cocoa varieties and carries a classification of “fine flavour cocoa”. The Forestero variety, for example, is classified as “bulk flavour cocoa”, and in comparison generally produces a much flatter, less diverse flavour profile in the chocolate. The unfortunate, considerably lower yield and susceptibility to disease of the Criollo, compared with the more robust and high yielding Forestero, means that not only is it the most sought after cocoa for its fine flavour, it is also the most expensive due to its limited supply. For this reason the Criollo variety and Chuao cocoa bean are not suited for mass production where low costs and considerable, consistent supply is essential. The Criollo is the basis from which the Chuao chocolate is born, but this is only the beginning..

Where is Chuao from?

The 140 hectare Chuao plantation is found in the Aragua valley in Northern Venezuela and is situated inside one of Latin America’s oldest national parks, Parque Nacional Henri Pittier Rancho Grande. The entire town revolves around cocoa and its nucleus is the little colonial church with its enormous parvis, the “patio de secado”, where the precious cocoa beans are left to dry. It boasts unique soil conditions and a micro-climate that includes high equatorial humidity and heavy rains which help wash fertile and rich silt down the mountain-side, creating perfect growing conditions for the cocoa.

The skilled farmers lives have revolved around cocoa production for well over 300 hundred years and amongst the ancestral techniques used by the farmers in Chuao are ingeniously improvised dams and irrigation systems constructed with banana leaves. Owned by the local community and managed by the community’s own cooperative, the Empresa Campesina de Chuao. The cooperative consists of around 100 farmers who tend the trees, harvest, sun-dry, and ferment the beans in the traditional way. These processes are very time consuming although essential in producing the unique flavour of the Chuao cocoa which drying kilns and such like just cannot achieve.

The Chuao name.

In order to protect this national asset, an application for the recognition of Chuao as an appellation of origin was filed in Venezuela on August 10, 2000 by Codet Aragua, Empresa Campesina de Chuao y MPC Aragua. The Declaration of Recognition was granted and published in the Official Journal of Industrial Property in November 2000. The grant protects the name Chuao and restricts its use to beans and cocoa products from that specifically defined geographical area. Such an appellation of origin denotes the unique character of the product and is a guarantee of quality.

The high quality of Chuao, as well as the IP protection it now has, enables the Campesina to negotiate a high price for its cocoa. Recognition of the market potential of the special characteristics associated with the Chuao plantation and obtaining IP protection to safeguard their product has enabled the area’s farmers to increase their income substantially. It has also brought an influx of additional know-how as well as foreign direct investment to the plantation, contributing to further wealth.

Quite a success story, locally produced, owned and managed by the local community, praised around the world for its exceptional quality and yet being rewarded handsomely with complete control staying with the farmers.

Perhaps the Chuao cocoa is unique in more ways than one…

By The Chocolate Traveller

Chocolate Trading Company

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