Chocolate Purveyors 30- Elfi Maldonado

Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Elfi Maldonado, co-founder of Qantu Chocolate.

One of the industry’s most adorable married couples, Elfi and Maxime exploded onto the chocolate scene in 2017, winning two Academy of Chocolate Awards. They encourage the farms they work with in Elfi’s home country of Peru to avoid the economic temptation of commercial cacao strains or hybrids, instead promoting biodiversity by focusing strictly on native varieties of cacao. Qantu’s chocolate is a deep dive into the role genetics and terroir play in flavors novices and experts alike can revel in.

Qantu Chocolate

Photo credit: Qantu Chocolate Instagram

Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?

When Maxime offered me truffles made by himself. I was 24 years old and until this day I really disliked chocolate that we found in Peruvian markets. I remember Truffles were an explosion of flavor that I have never tasted before. I understood that I had never tasted chocolate before.

How did your trip to Alto El Sol in northern Peru change everything?

When We arrived at Alto el Sol it was magic. We connected with people instantly, it was like when we met our old friend or people that we know. They told us a lot about Peruvian cacao and varieties. Although they don’t grow heirloom varieties they talked about how important it is to preserve it for our biodiversity. I think Qantu found their mission in Alto el Sol. Preserve and promote Peruvian heirloom cacao.

How can we all help promote craft chocolate?

We need to communicate about craft chocolate. People should communicate as much as possible how they are feeling when they are tasting craft chocolate. How it is special compared to commercial chocolate. Sometimes offer a craft chocolate as a present instead of a bottle of wine when you visit your friends then you can talk about the story of makers and about cacao origins. Anyone could become ambassadors of craft chocolate.

Qantu Chocolate

Photo credit: Qantu Chocolate Instagram

What does Qantu mean, and how does this word represent your identity?

Qantu is the name of the national Peruvian and Bolivian flower. We pronounce it kantu. We can find Qantu everywhere in Peru up to 4000 meters above sea level. It is a very nice flower and also very strong. Qantu represents the origin of our love, and also our love for Peru. We see Qantu flowers in almost all our trips inside Peru, and that flower accompanies us in our cacao adventures.

What is the inspiration behind the packaging designs?

We love handmade style illustrations. For our 70% the inspiration is the process of bean-to-bar with a touch of humor For the new bars we use unique illustrations more poetic and surreal. For exemple Don Maximo’ Quest bar where Don Maximo travels in a cacao pod as a hot air balloon. We would like to pass the message that cacao is all that matters for Don Maximo and he travels everywhere for his cacao research.

Oh la vache! We pass the message that is not a normal cow, it is different as our milk chocolate is not a normal or classic milk chocolate. It is an Oh la vache chocolate or a tradition of holy cow chocolate.

Palo Santo bar illustration is to show how sacred is the Palo Santo tree, and Black walnut bar illustration is an expression of Canadian happiness because the nordic black walnut and maple syrup are the pride of Canadians.

Do you have a personal favourite terroir?

Not one, but 5 terroirs in Peru. Everyone has their own magic for a special moment. Morropón and Gran Blanco are my favorites for celebration moments! It tastes sparkling like Champagne. Bagua is my romantic chocolate throughout the year. Chuncho is my comforting chocolate in Fall and Winter. And Chaska from Junin is my chocolate for my moments of return to innocence because we use cacao from the region I was born.

Qantu Chocolate

Photo credit: Qantu Chocolate Instagram

How do you select the cacao you work with?

We visit the cooperative to know how they work, the social mission, and the quality assurance. We define our own profile of cacao and after when our lot / order is ready they notify us to go for a confirmation. We taste many microlots to choose the best of the best. How to know if it is the best? First a physical test is made if all is ok like fermentation, drying, sizes, etc 10% of decision is done. After an organoleptique test is done for another 10% of my decision and if the aromas and emotions of farmers touch my heart  another 80% of my decision is done. All our awards confirm that it is a good technique to select cacao.

You make several inclusion bars, are you noticing more inclusion bars being made? Where is its place in the craft chocolate world?

We are starting to add more inclusion bars, for two reasons. First sustainability,  we would like to develop our partnership with our 4 cooperatives, to grow together.  We were looking for how to diversify our products without changing the origins of cacao or offering too many origins. Second, it’s important to use local ingredients. People now are looking to buy local products, and in our case all our cacao comes from Peru. So using local ingredients makes our chocolate more accessible and more emotional for Canadians.

We remark that all the time that we buy chocolate from other bean-to-bar makers we buy inclusion bars because we discover different experiences that I have never tasted, always the ingredients added are catching our attention. For example speciality teas, local alcohols or sea foods with chocolate. It is a good way to invite new consumers, who don’t know too much about origins or varieties of cacao, to know more about craft chocolate and chocolate makers.

What is your favorite pairing with chocolate? (Coffee, Beer, Cheese, etc.)

My favorite pairing is with tea. I think the Qantu bars and Oolongs teas are made to go together. Red, white, black every Oolong is made for pairing with a Qantu.

Qantu Chocolate

Photo credit: Qantu Chocolate Instagram

For someone trying Qantu Chocolate for the first time, what chocolate bar would you give them to try?

I always give Morropón bars when people tell me they want to understand why we make special chocolate.

What does the future hold for Qantu Chocolate?

Many projects in mind, but the most important is that we wish to harvest a lot more smiles, as we do now.  And for sure continue to select the best cacao with Maxime and my friends in Peru.

Qantu Chocolate

Photo credit: Qantu Chocolate Instagram

We want to thank Elfi for taking the time to answer our questions, we hope you learned more about Elfi and Qantu Chocolate.

To get started with craft chocolate, start with our Kekao Box. We search the world for the finest chocolate bars and bring them right to your doorstep monthly. From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you'll get inside the box! Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars. 

If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate store.

If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box, or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.