EXPERIENCES

THE FINEST
ECUADORIAN
CHOCOLATE BARS

Tasting it is an experience for all the senses. Its dark and shiny color, and dry and strong breaking sound, proves its purity; its enfolding aroma and smooth taste, like the best-aged wine, stays on the palate asking for more. This is no small ask when it comes to To´ak, the chocolate which Forbes and Fortune magazines consider the most expensive in the world, and which originates in Ecuador.

A 50 gram bar divided into 12 tablets costs around USD 260. The demands on product quality to meet the standards of such a fine and pure chocolate result from very careful selection work and equipment, and have earned this brand their luxury market position. The secret is in the quality of the bean and in the process that the cacao undergoes, once it has been grown by farmers in the Piedra de Plata community, in Calceta canton, Manabi. In Ecuador, there are plants of more than one hundred years of age that produce fruit with a unique aroma.

The Ecuadorian chocolate industry is comprised of more than 25 brands, which are exported to around 30 countries. Among its greatest strengths, the handmade production techniques and its functional characteristics are most noteworthy. Among the main Ecuadorian chocolate bars, Pacari, Kallari, Caoni, República del Cacao, Hoja Verde, Pepa de Oro, Valdivian, Mashpi, Chchukululu and Cacaoyere are all definitely worth a mention.

PACARI,
ONE OF THE MOST
WELL-KNOWN BRANDS
OF CHOCOLATE IN THE COUNTRY

Pacari uses organic cacao produced in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Los Rios and Manabi, blended with Andean flavors. “We only make dark chocolate, not milk, because the art and magic is in doing it that way. We want a brand from the south (of the continent) to gain recognition in the north, since mostly it’s the raw material (cacao) that is shipped”, says Co-Founder and Manager, Carla Barboto.

Pacari, leader of the Raw Chocolate movement, uses exciting ingredients in its bars, as well as the forgotten Andean fruits: lemon verbena, gooseberry and Andean blueberry. Likewise traditional flavors from neighboring countries are used: Chile merkén (Mapuche chili) and the pink salt Maras (an ancient salt from nearby Cusco).

Barboto says that the Andean blueberry Chocolate combination is a product that nobody had previously made, and now the world knows that there is mortiño in Ecuador. In addition, there are chocolate banana combinations, coffee, guava, and chocolate with ginger powder or ishpingo. In total, there are 10 or 12 flavors that have brought a refreshing new note to the world charter of flavors. Pacari has 25 different types of chocolate, which are sold in 26 countries.

CHOCOLATE TASTING

As in any tasting process, first sight matters initially, where a glow over the chocolate showing its quality can be seen. In addition to the dark tone, the coverage of chocolate should be smooth, indicating that sugars have been well compacted.

Then comes the aroma, which can be perceived only by approaching the bar. However, to isolate the smell you should take the piece in both hands, cupping one over the other, with the piece of chocolate in the middle. Both hands are brought up to the nose in order to appreciate the aroma of the chocolate using tiny inhalations. On breaking the bar, the sound should be clear, precise and strong. A ‘crack’ lets you know that chocolate was produced correctly. Another way to perceive the different characteristics of chocolate is to cover the nose and let the chocolate melt in the mouth while letting some air in, so that it is possible to distinguish other aromas and flavors in greater detail.

Companies like Republica del Cacao have offered several tasting sessions for their best chocolates, allowing their award-winning products to be sampled. Among the most popular bars is Vinces, which is 75% cacao solids, and has been recognized by Fox News and Gayot.com as one of the top 10 in the world. Gayot is a virtual magazine devoted to topics such as travel, lifestyle and cuisine.

MEALS AND MENUS

The most prestigious national brands’ recipes have mostly been developed through studies and international experiences, with innovation also playing its part. Thus, new combinations, flavors and aromas have emerged, which give the product a nice presentation and differentiated value to the consumer.

Many of these products are combined with other types of exotic fruit such as pepper, uvilla, bilberries, banana, coffee, guava, ginger powder or ishpingo, offering extraordinary taste experiences. In this way, the humble grain of fine aroma cacao turns into a unique creation when combined with these other ingredients.

Currently, chocolate has come into its own within Ecuadorian gastronomy, which uses this product to enrich delicious recipes and provide unmatched flavor to those who dare to try them. In Ecuador, the job of chocolatier is now emerging, due to keen interest from various chefs who are pushing research, and these same people have taken charge of developing and bringing to life magnificent culinary creations where texture, technique and – above all – flavor – is brought to the fore.

CACAO FARMS

Ecuador offers the world a Tourist Cacao Route, where visitors can witness the manual tasks that are performed to achieve the best quality in a product whose value is intrinsic to their genes, but which would be impossible to achieve without the hand of the farmers, whose faces are kissed by the sun and their passion for their land.

If you want to learn about the cacao production process, from planting to becoming an exquisite chocolate, you cannot miss the opportunity to visit the country’s various cacao farms, especially those in the coastal region and the Amazon, where there are plenty of options to live and breathe the entertaining experience of this ancient fruit harvest, transforming it into chocolate and finally, letting it melt in your mouth.

Venture along trails through the vast plantations of cacao; learn about the fruits of the “gold nugget” which, once it has been cultivated, dried and ground, will be transformed into a delicious dessert: chocolate, world renowned for its unique flavor.

Going on these tours is, therefore, paramount to exploring the history, traditions, natural beauty, culture and flavors, not only of the finest chocolate in the world, but also of a unique region.