By doing research on bean-to-bar chocolate makers, I discovered "Qantu - cacao et chocolate". It was awesome, in the true sense of the word, to explore all the flavors and colors of Peruvian cacao. Yes, you get the point, I tried all their current selection. It is not a rash statement to say that Elfi and Maxime brought prestige to the specific cacao origin and have made the chocolate movement shine (almost) worldwide.
From cherry and plum, floral and nuts, honey and citrus, toffee and orange blossom to figs, dates, and roses, even balsamic and peppery tasting notes, they really achieved the thing that everybody craves:
Unleashing the power of cacao beans in masterwork dark chocolate bars.
Let them introduce themselves...
Since we first met, we were dreaming to start our own company that put together all our love and energy, a company that would reflect our values, but we were looking for a mission in this world. In 2014 after an immersive trip to the Peruvian jungle, we felt in love with passionate farmers that grew coffee and cacao. We found our mission, to preserve the biodiversity of our beloved Peru. At first, we were thinking of roast heirloom coffee, but cacao was always there in our mind. In the summer of 2016, the dream came true. We decided to choose cacao and chocolate because the flavors were more direct and clear than coffee, but also because chocolate is a better medium to convey emotions. Then, we selected 2 cooperatives of farmers, purchased small equipment, imported our first cocoa beans, and the magic could begin. Regarding our name, Qantu represents the national flower of Peru and Bolivia. It’s a wildflower that originates from Cusco in Peru, where Elfi and Maxime met more than 10 years ago. It’s also a symbol of unity among people. The idea of our packaging and mold style comes from Elfi who wanted people to understand the steps to produce chocolate so she came up with the idea of using 9 icons, one for each step. It was also designed to help sellers in different stores to remember easily the phases so they could explain to the clients all the process of making chocolate. It’s also a good way to explain to people the difference between a chocolate maker and a ‘chocolatier’ who buy coverture chocolate and melt it to make his products. In relation to our cacao origin selection, Peru is Elfi`s native country where she was born and raised. She knows a lot of people there, culturally is easier to communicate, to build a strong relationship with cacao farmers. When we meet people in the jungle, we feel like being at home with the family, the relationship is more natural than when we met people from another culture or language. Peru is also one of the countries with more cacao diversity. We can easily find many flavor profiles, but the most important is that we find stories that inspire us every day to continue our work.
I also asked them some questions as you can read down below.
Have you ever tried to work with other cacao origins or do you plan to expand your origin selection in the future?
Yes, one of our first test bars was made with cacao from Ecuador, but for us, it’s not enough to know the story by phone or to read about it. We needed to be immersed in the culture, to understand the objectives of the cooperative and how they work. We needed more than cocoa beans, we need to be part of a family.
Yes, we would love to expand our origin selection. But first, we need to find cacao with a special flavor profile and also to develop a strong relationship with the farmers. It’s an exciting and complex task.
What is the first bar you have ever made and when did you realize you were on the right track?
In Fall 2016, we made many test batch of our bars Morropon 70% and Gran Blanco 70% before we sold them. In 2017, two gold medals from The Academy of Chocolate Awards made us realize that we were on the right track.
What is the story behind the bar "Silk Road Spices" Chuncho 70% bar?
Silk Road is a tribute to friendship. One of our best friends, Kamran Kambari, is from Iran he is passionate about food and painting since we started our chocolate journey we wanted to make something together and we finally had the opportunity to merge our cultures in one chocolate bar. Our friends from Épices de cru provided us with spices, Kamran draws the illustration for the Silk Road package, and another friend that we admire a lot, Estelle Tracy, wrote the description. The silk Road bar is dedicated to friendship!
Would you like to deepen more aspects of the most expensive and luxurious Qantu bar: the Tresor Cache? What kind of cacao variety we are talking about and why is it so rare? Do you plan to continue to work with it? What the minimal illustration of the packaging depicts?
It is the toughest cacao to work with! Origin is Peru, from the central jungle, and we can’t say more because it’s a “Hidden Treasure”. The cacao variety is “wild” cacao that our friend and farmer from the cooperative found in his plantation. You know there are farmers in the jungle that have a plantation of 10 hectares and never seen all of it, they discover a new type of trees, plants, animals every time they go deeper in their plantation. Only a few trees of this cacao variety were found in the plantation, the cooperative is trying to propagate that variety so it will take a few years before they can provide more volume. Our friend decided to ferment and dry a bit of this cacao to see what it looks like. The result, a very different flavor profile of beans with a pale color and fudge texture. Unique.
It’s a limited edition. So we’ll finish our micro-lot of cocoa beans and after maybe we will continue, but that will depend on the level of production from our friend. Also, those beans are more difficult to process than normal cocoa beans, the shell is thicker and the beans break in tiny pieces.
About the packaging, it’s a collaboration with our artist friend Marie-Chloé Duval, every painting is unique. That painting for the Hidden Treasure bar is named Humanity, and for Marie-Chloé it means a dialogue between self and the others. For us, we saw ourselves in front of a forest which represents our constant quest to find exceptional cocoa beans.
How do you plan to diversify your Peruvian collection? Milk, dark/milk, unsweetened, collaboration with other artisan makers (not necessarily other chocolate makers), alcohol inclusion, aging chocolate, drinking products, different sweeteners, old school?
For the moment, we have a dark milk collection on its way! We make collaborations with local companies in Montréal for example with ice cream companies, other chocolatier confectioners, with nut butter companies, craft beer, alcohols, and others.
What is the most appreciated Qantu bar by chocolate lovers?
The Gran Blanco because it’s so different, like a Champagne. People like that it tastes like no other bar.
I am pretty sure you are a Peruvian chocolate aficionado but have you a second preference?
Many! Mexico, Madagascar, India, Philippines, and many other cacao origins. In every country, there are passionate people that make chocolate with love and we feel it in the taste!
I believe being a craft chocolate maker is one of the most rewarding works to do. But what is the intrinsic difficulty with it?
We would not say difficulty but challenging. I think the administrative work and manage business development are a big challenge. We prefer to try new recipes and sourcing cacao all year, but we have to do a bit of everything.
What is your chocolate message to the world?
Every bite of chocolate is a love story. When you taste chocolate, take your time to
know it, feel it, live it!
It means a lot to me having Qantu support and friendship from the very beginning. Their gesture is a symbol of good luck for positive things to come. The Tresor Cache must be enjoyed to the end and it is essential to relax slowly to satisfy our thirst for genuine inner freedom.