Monday, July 25, 2011

A Mountaintop Chocolate Factory

Nestled atop a bluff on the outskirts of Tarapoto is the Orquidea Chocolate factory. It can be reached by an interesting up and down mototaxi ride (it seems as if one is always traveling either up or down in Tarapoto) from the city’s center.

The timing of our visit was not good – arriving on Saturday when the plant is not operating. On weekdays visitors will be given a tour to actually see chocolate being produced. We were limited to seeing cocoa beans drying in the sun, later to be placed in vats and allowed to ferment for seven days.

The entire production process was explained to us by these pleasant Orquidea employees, who also told us that Orquidea has been in its present location over ten years; has nineteen employees; sells all over Peru and exports to the United States. At present they manufacture nine standard varieties of ‘bars’ but will also produce custom blends and large blocks for resellers.

The ownership of Orquidea was not made clear to me. As I understand it Orquidea was an NGO start-up operation in 1998 with a budget of $30,000 and is but a small part of a larger effort in the San Martin Region to encourage alternate crops to replace coca. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the government of Peru have invested more than $100 million over the past fifteen years toward a goal of eradicating coca production.

The company has several web sites. This one has interesting commentary about local farmers growing cocoa as an alternative to coca.

Orquidea is attempting to enlarge its presence in the US and then hopefully to other countries. We bought several of each of their offerings and will vouch for the fine taste of their products.

If you should happen to visit Orquidea be sure to take a camera. The view alone from the factory is more than enough to make the trip worthwhile.

Tom and Maribel


  1. did you buy any product?
    I thought their fondant was really good


  2. Hi Jim… we bought 4 of each of the 9 types of bars in their display case, and even had the discipline to bring some back to Chiclayo. I didn’t see anything with fondant. By the way, thanks for the tip. The woman in the information office didn’t mention the chocolate factory and if you hadn’t mentioned it we would have missed it.