My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
Cocoa cultivation in Colombia is of great importance as Colombian cocoa is considered to be one of the gentlest and most aromatic cocoa varieties in the world. Thanks to the agro-ecological conditions and the location of the country, cocoa is grown in large quantities and only in certain regions of the country where the tree known as the cocoa tree produces this wonderful fruit with a delicate taste and aroma.
Why is cocoa growing in Colombia ideal?
The main reason is the area where the cocoa tree grows. Rain and temperature are essential for the cocoa to grow well, and this tree must also grow in the shade. In addition to the lower incidence of light, the humidity in the area favors the spread of diseases when cultivating the plant, so it is recommended to grow it in tropical lowland areas. Since the cocoa is planted locally under such conditions, it is not exposed to any changes in the formation of the flower or the good growth of the fruit.
Colombia is known for the cultivation of drugs, which also led and leads to clashes in these areas, including deaths and aggression. With the cultivation of cocoa, farmers have been given the opportunity to generate a more efficient economic income. The labor needed in cocoa growing is of great importance, so more and more Colombian families are being encouraged to work in this sector and to be recognized abroad for the quality of their crops.
Cocoa has also brought great benefits for the environment in the growing regions. Thanks to the National Association of Cocoa Farmers (Fedecacao), the country’s cocoa growers receive training on healthy growth, help with annual productivity and higher yielding harvests.
Some of these tools consist of a thorough understanding of growing techniques, harvesting practices, and care in pruning the fruit. One of the most important aids is buying cocoa at a very good price in times of low demand.
Colombia has enough acreage to grow all three cocoa varieties. In the following you will learn more about the different types of cocoa and their properties.
Cocoa varieties in Colombia
Before you can harvest the first fruits, a planted tree must first grow for 5 years. The lifespan of a cocoa tree is around 30 years. The fruits can be of different colors, including green, orange, dark purple, and yellow, the different colors depending on the stage of ripeness.
From the fruit, which is usually between 15 and 30 centimeters long and 7 to 10 centimeters wide, the seed is taken, which is known as haba and is covered by a white pulp. The seeds are then fermented and dried before further processing steps follow.
There are the following types of cocoa in Colombia:
Criollo cocoa is mainly grown in Colombia, the fruits of which have an elongated shape with grooves and are also more sensitive than the other cocoa varieties but of very high quality.
The fruit is considered to be one of the best, so it is the most produced. However, it is susceptible to pests. Care should therefore be taken when handling and caring for the tree. Criollo cocoa takes time to grow, but its aroma and excellent taste are prompting more and more producer families in Colombia to choose this very special cocoa variety.
The Forastero is one of the most widely cultivated varieties in the world and is only produced in small quantities in Colombia. The shape of the fruit is round and smooth. As soon as the fruit is ripe, its color changes from green to yellow. This cocoa variety is mainly grown in Brazil and Africa, has a hard shell and produces some varieties such as Calabacillo and Angoleta.
It is a mixture of the two types of cocoa mentioned above, which changes its color from dark purple to orange when it is ripe.
Important cocoa producers in Colombia
Cocoa production in Colombia is an important economic factor and many families have put all their strength and dedication over the years to put Colombia on the list of the best cocoa in the world.
These efforts have paid off, which is why Colombia has been recognized three times as the best cocoa producer in the world at the Paris Chocolate Salon in the Cocoa Excellence category and at the International Cacao Awards and the Great Taste Awards in the United Kingdom.
It is also known that cocoa has a different note and taste in each department of the country. Below I would like to introduce you to the areas where cocoa is grown, as well as its different flavors and derivatives.
Andean region – Departamento de Santander
Cocoa production in this department of the country is well known thanks to the high quality and taste of the Santander fruit and Colombia was named a winner at the Salon de Chocolat in Paris. In fact, Santander is the country’s leading cocoa producer, as the Fedecacao explains.
The taste of Santander cocoa is fine, intense and fruity, which has resulted in products such as chocolate and coffee that are ideal for creating a taste sensation on the consumer’s palate.
Cocoa production in the department and at national level takes place mainly in the municipality of San Vicente de Chucurí, which is known for the excellent quality of the fruit. In fact, this city is known as the cocoa capital of Colombia. San Vicente de Chucurí produces around 7,000 tons of cocoa per year.
The government and other agencies have helped the community increase and improve production. A few years ago, Fedecacao and the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture developed the Cocoa Plan. 450,000 cocoa plants were given to local producers (more than 4,000 families) and 1,400 hectares were cultivated in the region. In addition, the farmers in San Vicente have been trained to monitor the climate with technical aids and to use the collected data to improve their harvests.
Departamento del Huila
Good farming practices, production management and the compelling end product have made Huila one of the best cocoa areas in Colombia. As I have already mentioned the quality and aroma of cocoa in other departments, Huila is not behind, but has also participated and won competitions such as the Cacao de Oro.
Production takes place in the municipalities of Gigante and Rivera in different and dispersed villages where there are farms with the best cultivation areas.
Departamento del Tolima
Tolima is currently seeing an increase in production and is one of the leading cocoa producers in Colombia. In 2020, 4,312 thousand tons of cocoa were produced, a large part of which was supplied to large chocolate companies. The cocoa from this area is characterized by soft notes, fresh fruit and a little nuts.
Pacific region – Departamento de Antioquia
There are currently more than 2,500 families working in cocoa cultivation in this region. Together with the National Association of Cocoa Farmers, they have initiated a development in cocoa derivatives that not only offers consumers a unique taste experience with the fruit, but also creates new products that can be made with a great fruit.
Characteristic of the cocoa from Antioquia is the taste of citrus fruits and flowers, which melts on the palate in a few seconds and explodes with a mixture of aromas that is representative of the department.
Departamento de Nariño
Narino is not known for cocoa production. However, it is primarily a city on the Pacific coast that cultivates high quality cocoa plants. Tumaco is also known for its culture, dances and folklore.
In Colombia, Tumaco cocoa is not very popular, but in Asian countries like Japan, the rich, sweet taste with fresh fruit has made Tumaco one of the best cocoa producers. Thanks to Gustavo Mindineros, who is responsible for his own cultivation in Tumaco, Colombia was brought into Japanese households.
Región Orinoquía- Departamento de Arauca
The cocoa in Arauca is considered to be one of the best in the world, not only because of its excellent aroma, but also because of its pure cocoa taste with hints of sweetness, nuts and dried fruits. The department is number three in national cocoa production. The fruit is grown mainly in the municipality of Arauquita in the villages of El Troncal and Barranquillita, where the altitude is between 280 and 320 meters above sea level.
Characteristics of a good cocoa
How do we know if the cocoa product or cocoa bean we are consuming is of good quality?
In Colombia there are certain rules for classifying cocoa as Cacao Fino and Aroma Colombiano. Above all, it must be taken into account that the desired taste is nutty, cocoa-containing or fruity and must have a mild acid and astringency content. The aroma must be comparable to the flavors described above, otherwise it would be rejected immediately in the absence of its characteristic “fine and good aroma”. The good taste and aroma result from the fermentation process and the treatment of the fruit. When choosing a good cocoa, other characteristics such as density, moisture, feel and appearance also play a role.
Colombian cocoa exports
Cocoa production in Colombia has grown considerably. The country now produces 66,000 tons of cocoa per year. Of this, 9,000 tons are exported in the form of beans and 12,000 tons in the form of cocoa products.
The International Cocoa Organization confirms that Colombian production is classified as “fine taste”, which is why it enjoys such a good reputation abroad. Countries like Belgium, Holland, Russia, Hungary, Singapore, Japan and Canada are interested in importing cocoa beans, fine chocolate and other cocoa products from Colombia every year. In addition to the countries mentioned above, Mexico, Malaysia and the United States are the main buyers of ripe cocoa beans for processing the fruit and making their own products. Colombia also has a special and good alliance with Asian countries like Japan, so the dark chocolate has a great impact on the gastronomic sector, especially one of good quality and fine category like the Colombian cocoa.
Products made from cocoa
The main product made from cocoa is chocolate. However, there are a large number of products that are also based on cocoa and that sell very well both in Colombia and abroad due to the local and gastronomic products.
- Cocoa powder: During cultivation, the cocoa is removed from the white sack that surrounds the fruit and ground. This powder gives off a rich aroma and can be eaten as a powder. This product is also widely used to make cookies, desserts, ice cream, cakes and even hot beverages like coffee or drinking chocolate.
- Liqueur: Although it is called a cocoa liqueur, it does not contain alcohol. It is a chocolate cream made from dried cocoa and the fat obtained from it. It is generally used to decorate desserts and letters on cakes.
- Cocoa Butter: This product comes in two forms, liquid and solid. The fat that is extracted from the cocoa during processing is known as cocoa butter. It is used not only in chocolate and edible products, but also in soaps and skin care products. The antioxidant properties of cocoa also work against aging of the skin, which is why it can also be found in many cosmetic products.
- Cocoa nibs: Pieces of cocoa beans that are roasted and ready to be eaten. Personally, I don’t find them very tasty because of their bitterness, but many people consume them in desserts, chocolate and even in beer, others eat them as a simple and quick snack.
9 Colombian companies that work with cocoa
The companies listed below have had a major impact on the country’s economic development. Several of these companies have been in the market for many years, working hard to bring the joy of a good chocolate or cocoa product to Colombian households and abroad.
Casa Luker chocolate has been represented in Colombia for 115 years. The people of Colombia can confirm that the chocolate is very good. One of the fondest memories is walking past the factory and smelling the seductive chocolate aroma that emanates from there. Casa Luker not only offers chocolate with high-quality and aromatic cocoa, but also desserts that underline the high quality and taste of Colombian cocoa.
This company is responsible for recognizing the work of the people who grow cocoa. They go out of their way to travel repeatedly to different parts of the country where high quality cocoa is grown and make amazing chocolate bars.
This company combines the rich flavors of cocoa with nuts and tropical flavors from Colombia. Although prices are high for Colombians, people like to buy them. As a traveler, you should definitely try the pralines. The products have an exquisite taste that makes you want more.
This is the largest chocolate company from the Santander department in Colombia. The packaging of the chocolate is elegant and informative, and the contents are simply delicious. A presentation of the various cocoa proportions is enclosed with each box for information.
In addition to the sale of the famous chocolate bars with the self-produced and fermented cocoa, a large selection of desserts and delicacies that reflect the Colombian taste is offered.
Tropical Passion specializes primarily in fruits, although the cocoa bean should of course not be missing.
The company is responsible for the fermentation as well as the drying and processing of the cocoa into chocolate. The fruits for it are bought in Antioquia. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to try these products yet.
This company offers chocolate in the form of chocolate chips rather than bars, which increases cravings. The taste is so rich and seductive that you don’t even notice that you’ve already eaten ten chocolate chips.
If you want to enjoy a good cup of hot chocolate for a cold afternoon with friends, Corona is the ideal chocolate. This company has also been accompanying Colombian households for many years. The chocolate contains various ingredients that give the cocoa used more flavor. You can find out more about the company via the link.
The brand represents different places in the country where cocoa is grown. The packaging is original and provides information about the origin of the cocoa. It also shows various old traditions and local figures. The products not only contain cocoa, but are mixed with exotic fruits and nuts to create a taste explosion on the palate.
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