Colombia is home to some of the finest chocolate found anywhere on the planet. In fact, 95% of Colombia’s cacao exports are classed as ‘Fine Flavour’ by the International Cacao Organisation, and it is one of the largest producers of cacao in the world.
Chocolate originated in Latin America, where the cacao fruit tree is native, and the delicacy is strongly tied in to the culture of the region. Elite members of Mexico’s Mayan society are thought to have been drinking chocolate beverages as early as 400BC. In Aztec times it was believed that cacao seeds were a gift from the gods, and they were so highly valued that they became a form of currency, as well as being made into a chocolate drink which would be consumed during religious ceremonies and on special occasions.
In Colombia, hot chocolate is a much-loved drink, either enjoyed for breakfast or before bedtime. It can be made with water or milk, can be either sweetened or unsweetened, and some varieties even come with a cheese topping, called santafereno. However in recent years chocolate has become important in Colombian culture for a different reason, as an emerging alternative crop for farmers embroiled in the damaging coca farming industry.
Cultivation of the coca plant, which is used to make cocaine, still has something of a stronghold in the country. However, with the peace deal between the government and the FARC rebels in 2017 came increased stability to the region, and the government is now in a much stronger position to begin combatting the drugs trade which funded rebel activities for so long. Officials are enticing farmers to switch from coca crops to cacao crops by offering subsidies and training in growing and farming cacao.
We’re happy to be supporting this growing industry with our new tour, From Coca to Cacao: A Colombia Chocolate Tour. Chocolatier Amelia Rope has spent plenty of time in the country sourcing cacao for her delicious chocolate and will take us to visit some of Colombia’s finest cocoa plantations, where we’ll meet the farmers, learn about the cacao industry and of course sample some of the delicious final product!