Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview: Santiago Peralta, Pacari Chocolate

Interview with Santiago Peralta, Pacari Chocolate
Interview Date: January 21, 2013

During the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA, I had the privilege to interview Pacari Chocolate Founder, Santiago Peralta.

Pacari Chocolate is a tree-to-bar maker of Ecuadorian organic chocolates, that also offers a line of raw chocolate bars, cacao nibs, and other products.

I've featured several of these bars this past week and a half, as part of Chocolate and Ecuador Theme Week. More information on these specific bars can be found in my Chocolate of the Day Posts, from Feb. 6 - 15, 2013.

What's Unique about Pacari Chocolate?

Santiago and others at Pacari work directly with between 2,500 and 3,000 farmers in Ecuador, to produce single region bars from cacao growing areas in western provinces such as Los Rios, Esmeraldas, and Manabi.

Pacari also is involved with the growing of golden berries (trozos de uvilla), native wild Andean blueberries, and other fresh ingredients for their chocolates. Inclusions from other Andean nations, such as salt from a sacred valley in Cuzco, Peru, and Merken (spice) from Chile, can also be found in Pacari dark chocolate bars.

The company works to improve the quality of life for farmers that they work with in Ecuador where possible, with efforts such as Project Flashlamp -- that replaces battery-driven flashlights with solar-powered ones. And the direct relationships Pacari has formed with farmers likely result in better visibility into soil, growing conditions, and what works and doesn't work.

Not only is the company one of the top certified organic chocolate makers, but also the company is one of the few operations that has been certified biodynamic (by Demeter). The company also produces Kosher certified products.

Biodynamic farming goes beyond organic farming in some respects, in that it takes into account relationships between soil, living organisms as well as the crops that are growing, and seeks to balance out these relationships to obtain the best results for the short and long term.

Pacari in the U.S.
I became acquainted with Pacari Chocolate through The Chocolate Garage in Palo Alto. And the following day after this interview, I attended a chocolate maker get-together at the Garage where Santiago and others talked about their chocolates and the processes involved with creating great bars and bringing them to market. (Pictures of Sunita de Tourreil, Chocolate Garage founder, and Santiago, shown bottom right.) Pacari can also be found in various independent markets in the U.S. and maintains an office/rep. in Florida to assist in marketing and distribution.

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