Working with the local people is part of our pillars. We believe in working with the nearby communities and learning about their traditions and knowledge. Teresa Lopez is native to Tres Unidos community and part of our staff, contributing to the nursery project and the creation and development of products using what we grow and harvest at Chaikuni. Teresa's love and dedication to what she does is ever growing. This is her story.
From working multiple jobs, such as cooking, babysitting and sweatshops to creating and producing natural products, ever since Teresa Lopez left Lima about 13 years ago to go back to her hometown of Tres Unidos community, she became an intrinsic part of the Chaikuni family. When her mother told her the Temple of the Way of Light was in need of a cook, Teresa didn’t think twice about leaving her life in the capital city and returning to the city she was born in. After all, being in the kitchen and surrounded by nature is what she loves the most.
At first, she struggled, living in the Amazon isn’t always easy and Teresa was working wonders to keep the vegetables and meats fresh. With time, refrigerators were installed, Teresa settled in and in the blink of an eye, 11 years went by. Then Covid-19 hit. Like everywhere around the world, The Temple of the Way of Light had to take a pause and Teresa spent her time collaborating with neighbors to prepare meals, harvest food and take care of the sick.
By 2021, Chaikuni was receiving volunteers and Teresa was asked to come cook for them. It wasn’t a full- time job at first, but eventually she was hired as a permanent member of the staff. She also led the nursery project, planting and harvesting the local products she uses for cooking. Not only that, but working along the volunteers, Teresa began to develop an interest for creating products with the harvests that came from the Chaikuni fields. She already knew how to make marmalade and tested out one made of a small banana, called guineo. It became the first product to be offered to the participants of the ayahuasca retreat at the local fair and people were sold. After that, she decided to make something out of the cacao. Teresa laid the beans out in the sun to dry, then she roasted them and packed them in small glass jars to be sold as a healthy chocolate treat. One time, when some people of a native community came for a workshop, Teresa was taught to process an estrogen-rich fruit called aguaje. This is how she made her first batch of aguaje oil, a perfect ingredient to cook with but also to put on the skin and hair. Teresa proudly shows her notebook with the recipe written in it and says that she is going to try and make coconut oil next, her eyes shining bright with excitement. A cacao soda is also on the list.
Teresa tells her favorite product to make are the cocoa beans. “I get distracted peeling and roasting them. I also love the smell when they cook. Just being in the kitchen, in general.” She does not know where she sees herself in 2 or 5 years, but what is certain is that she does not want to stop learning, creating and enjoying the entire process. And here at Chaikuni, we are grateful for that and to her.