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The Choba Choba Blog

The quest for gold in the Alto Huayabamba

Written by Choba Choba
Nativo Project Catalogue

This year I spent six months in the Alto Huayabamba. My mission was to precisely study the various cocoa trees growing on the fincas (plots) of Choba Choba cocoa producers to create a detailed catalogue of the different cocoa varieties in the valley. Early on, we thought there were between forty and fifty different cocoa trees on the producers’ fields. But now, we’ve already counted 81(!) in the communities of Pucallpillo and Santa Rosa. And our research continues… The identification and morphological description of these cocoa varieties is the first step towards their conservation. This way, we’re able to identify their diversity and resources, and therefore protect them.

I’ve spent several months with Jimy and cocoa producers on their fincas to meticulously study each cocoa tree based on extremely specific criteria.

To start off, I recorded the exact location, then the age and size of each cocoa tree. Then, I described in great detail the shape of their flowers, pods, beans, and assessed their productivity as well as resistance to diseases. But the most interesting thing was of course tasting the fruits and describing their organoleptic characteristics. In collaboration with cocoa producers, we described if the fruit pulp was floral or fruity, sweet or acidulous, and if the bean was bitter or tart. The visual and gustative differences between these fruits couldn’t have been more pronounced!

Thanks to the Nativo project’s catalogue, Choba Choba has a complete and detailed overview of the various cocoa trees growing on the producers’ fincas. We can now set up a seed bank with all the cocoa beans, and build a culture and conservation garden for all these precious cocoa trees. In the future, the most interesting varieties can be sampled and cultivated by Choba Choba producers to produce even more extraordinary cocoas. In addition to working on the Nativo project’s catalogue in the field, we’ve started cooperating with specialised international organisations such as the Centro de Innovación del Cacao (CIC) and Bioversity. The CIC is currently studying the genetic characteristics of twenty samples from our cocoa varieties. By the end of the year, well know the genetic origin of these first twenty varieties. Bioversity studies how cocoa producers in Pucallpillo and Santa Rosa can use the characteristics of these indigenous cocoa varieties, including their resistance.

I consider myself very fortunate to be working with these cocoas and to be able to taste them – they are some of the best in the world! After months of painstaking work, the Nativo project’s catalogue is finally complete! Each day, I felt like a gold prospector in the Alto Huayabamba. All of this with the sole goal of discovering the true Nativo cocoas of this valley, and to offer chocolate lovers the finest cocoa.