I am excited to be leading a chocolate expedition to Ecuador this coming September 5 – 14 with Global Family Travels and I hope you’ll join us.
Not only does Ecuador have an ancient cacao tradition that dates back centuries, but it is home to a vibrant, modern craft chocolate scene that offers excellent cacao and chocolate to taste and enjoy.
We’re heading to the current epicenter of cacao. In late 2018 it was proven that cacao was being consumed in Ecuador 1,500 years before the ancient Olmec civilization was consuming cacao in Mesoamerica, a breakthrough in our understanding of cacao’s origins. While Ecuador’s cacao traditions date back centuries, it is home to modern developments that have had a significant impact on cacao farming across South America and, in fact, the world. Many indigenous communities still farm cacao, and while they have adapted a handful of modern best practices, much of what they do draws on their ancestors’ preparation methods.
Ecuador offers a cacao dichotomy. Its national treasure, the prized varietal aptly known as “Nacional”, is one of the finest cacaos on the market. While it is home to one of the most prized cacaos, it is also home to one of the most controversial. Developed by one of Ecuador’s own scientists, CCN-51 is a highly-productive genetic varietal that is considered a flavorless workhorse by the fine chocolate community. Prized by large chocolate conglomerates for its productivity, CCN-51 is maligned by the craft chocolate industry for its lack of flavor and its poor impact on the environment.
But it’s not just about the cacao, it’s about the chocolate. Ecuador is home to a vibrant chocolate community that has competed on the world stage more effectively than many of its South American neighbors. A visit to Quito would not be complete without a tour and tasting of chocolate in the many local chocolate shops and at cacao farms along our voyage.
Our visit to Ecuador begins with a very special activity. We will join To’ak Chocolate for a tour of the former residence of Ecuadorian painter and sculptor Oswaldo Guayasamin, which is now a museum dedicated to his work. During our tour we will enjoy a guided chocolate tasting of four of To’ak’s prized Ecuadorian chocolates while relaxing in Guayasamin’s wine cellar. On our last day in Ecuador we will be guided around the chocolate shops of Quito by Jenny Samaniego, the founder of Conexión Chocolate. Jenny is a friend of mine from the fine chocolate industry whose passion is making a “conexión” between Ecuadorian farmers and the fine chocolate industry. She’s a lovely person with deep relationships in the chocolate community of Ecuador. She also has her own chocolate company. Need I say more?
While I love chocolate, I also love non-chocolate experiences that are unique to a country, and our itinerary in Ecuador is no exception. We will be visiting both the cloud forest of Mindo and the Amazon river valley of Archidona. In addition to visiting indigenous families and cacao farms we will have opportunities to visit a butterfly farm, watch the mating rituals of birds, go zip lining over the cloud forest, take a hike, reinvigorate at the spas of Papallacta and visit the renowned craft market at Otavalo.
I look forward to sharing some fantastic meals and unique chocolate tastings with you. We will enjoy dinners at some of the most renowned restaurants in Quito, and we will savor chocolate meals at El Quetzal in Mindo and with Republica del Cacao in Quito.
You will leave Ecuador with a better understanding of cacao farming, a host of great jungle adventures and a stash of chocolate to share with those not fortunate enough to accompany you. I hope you will join me!