See for yourself where it all starts.
Walter + his wife Delfina work together to grow the cocao in the Amazon along the Palcazu river. Mike, the founder of Choco Sombra, discovered Walter while searching for cacao on one of his adventures in Peru. Serendipitously, as he was seeking emergency shelter in the Icoscasin area, the locals directed him to the respected cacao grower that was known for taking in travelers. At that moment a great friendship formed. Mike went on to assist Walter in obtaining his certifications to export directly to the USA. To learn more about Walter’s family farm and his innovative farming methods, Read the interview!
The cacao tree seedlings take between three to four years to develop into a mature tree that can produce a cacao pod. After about 5 months the Pods are ready to be harvested. Ripe pods are cut from the trees by hand with large blades. To ensure that only pods with optimal ripeness are harvested, our farmer repeats the harvesting process various times, as not all the pods ripen at the exact same time.
The cacao pods are split open by hand. The inside of the pod is filled with beans that are surrounded by white pulp. This gooey white substance is composed of approximately 10% sugar and has a pleasant sweat taste. During the fermentation process this pulp is critical to the development of the chocolate flavor.
The cacao beans along with some of the pulp are placed into homemade wooden boxes. Depending on the humidity and temperature, Walter keeps the beans in these boxes between 4 to 7 days. The beans are stirred frequently during the fermentation process. This stage of the process is very important to the formation of the taste of chocolate that you experience.
Once the fermentation is complete the paste of beans is spread across large racks and set out in the sun to dry. This slow and natural process must be done carefully to preserve many of the special flavors you taste in our chocolate.Once the beans are dry, Walter and his team hand sort the cacao to remove any defective beans. After the beans have been sorted – they are placed into bags that will be shipped to the USA. Choco Sombra uses specialized liners in our Jute bags. This inner bag is called a Grain Pro bag – A green technology (organic and recyclable). It creates an ultra-hermetic seal which prevents insects and microorganisms from growing. It eliminates the need for insecticides and harsh chemicals. It also keeps the cacao fresh longer.
Walter travels with his cacao on a long journey from his farm in the jungle to the port of Callao. Once it arrives in Callao and the authorities inspect the cargo it is placed in a shipping container and embarks on a 5 week voyage to the USA. Once it arrives at the port of Maryland and Customs has inspected it – it comes via truck to our climate controlled warehouse in Frederick.