Cacao, the source of chocolate, is a transformative plant. Its roots lay in the jungles of Peru where it grows directly on the trunks of cacao trees in giant colorful pods. Pods that look like they easily could have come from an alien planet. The pulpy seeds are harvested by hand and then transformed by fermentation, arguably the most important part of the chocolate making process. The dried seeds then are skillfully transformed by chocolatiers into the food of the gods, chocolate. While the cacao seed goes through a transformation so too do the people who produce it. Cacao has been the catalyst for transforming thousands of Peruvian farmers lives as an alternate crop to coca the base of cocaine. Finally, as chocolate, it has transformed an uncountable number of frowns into smiles. 

In 2016 and 2017 I had the pleasure of visiting many of the cacao producing regions in Peru and interview the people who work with cacao. I was humbled and inspired by the people I met along this journey. What began as an investigation into a ubiquitous product became an exploration of the value and the importance of understanding how a product makes its way to the consumer. By giving names and faces to the many links in the chain shortens the gap between us allowing us a better appreciation and understanding of what it means to consume. 

Like a fine chocolate this project was designed to be consumed in bite size pieces. Explore at your own pace, follow the route that you find interesting, and most importantly the next time you unwrap a chocolate bar pause and think of it’s roots and the route it took to get to you. 

This projected was funded by the Collaboratory an office of the U.S. Sate Department that designs, pilots, and spreads new ways to further educational and cultural diplomacy. This project would not have been possible with out the farmers and chocolatiers who generously gave their time and allowed me to into their world in order to record the stories that make up this documentary. While the producers and chocolatiers certainly deserve the spotlight. Their are many who work tirelessly behind the scene to help support the Peruvian Cacao market deserve a special thanks. Specifically USAID and Allianza Cacao generously helped me make contacts in the chocolate world and greatly aided my work as far as logistics were concerned. Without these organizations the Peruvian chocolate market would be nowhere near as successful as it has become. Next time you ask what your government has done for you, think chocolate! 

Here is a short animated intro to cacao the Spanish version is found below the English version. The full documentary film project is currently in post production. 

Benjamin Ilka
Lima, Peru 2018