Venezuela’s cultural and environmental identity is closely tied to the cacao plant, which originated from the humid forests of the South American tropics. Over the centuries its fruit has assumed diverse yet fundamental functions. Its key role in the local economy is evident from the use of its seeds as coins, as described in accounts made by the first explorers. Perceiving cacao’s commercial value, in little time the Spanish made it Venezuela’s principal export – a business managed mainly by settlers from the Canary Islands. Venezuela’s ethnic composition was further affected by cacao cultivation during the Atlantic slave trade when ships from western Africa would load up with cacao before continuing on to Mexico or the Dutch Antilles. After independence and the diffusion of coffee consumption, however, production dramatically decreased. The low yields per hectare and competition with countries like Indonesia and Malaysia pushed Venezuela towards the bottom of the list of cacao producers. Together with Ecuador, Panama and Colombia, it supplies less than 5 percent of the world production. However, Venezuela still offers some of the best cacao in the world. The northwest region alone accounts for about 30 percent of Venezuelan cacao production and is characterized by Caracas and Carenero superior productions. The fruit of the Carenero superior is often a crossbreed between Trinitario, Forastero and Criollo plants or hybrids of these varieties. The beans are of medium dimensions and are fermented to a 90 percent grade, ensuring quality cacao with an intense, balanced flavor and full aroma.
The traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.