Ever wonder what terms like Nacional, CCN-51 and Arriba are really about? Spend a week in Ecuador exploring exactly what these terms mean and so much more. Connect with Ecuador's cacao industry, a precarious mix of history, agronomy, genetics, economics, politics, tradition and innovation. Meet farmers, educators, chocolate makers, associations and exporters on the rise, under the radar and in the limelight. You might uncover more questions than answers, but you'll definitely have ample opportunity to get connected, get informed, get inspired and get cacao.
Meet Lourdes Delgado, Chchukululu chocolate maker, author and cacao promoter, amidst cacao trees and colonial-era cacao exhibits at Guayaquil's Parque Historico. She'll share her wisdom about "Arriba" cacao, as well as the products she makes with it.
Later, we'll spend time with Vicente Norero of Camino Verde renown. We'll visit his new cacao processing facility and chocolate factory and taste what he's been up to since he left farm life behind.
Spend the day with Juan Jose Andrade and Jaime Ramirez, partners in Angovi Chocolate, a developing tree-to-bar project. We'll visit Jaime's farm, La Culebra, then Asociacion Miraflores, where Angovi currently sources nacional complex cacao, followed by a visit to Babahoyo Exports, a new venture by Gonzalo Martinetti, one of Ecuador's Gran Cacao families.
We'll visit Casacao, the Martinetti family's large-scale cacao processing and export facility. Then, Luis Leon welcomes us to his family farm with on-site Fresh Costa chocolate factory.
We'll spend much of the day getting acquainted with heirloom-designated cacao at Hacienda Limon by grafting and harvesting, learning from Anita and Samuel von Rutte about their atypical fermentation process, making liquor and then tasting it and various products made from these beautiful beans.
A visit to Fortaleza del Valle, a rapidly growing association, reveals the ambitions of those staking their fortunes on preserving Nacional by paying a premium for it and processing it on site from baba to bar.
Then we're off to Finca Sarita, Servio Pachard's magical farm, where To'ak's post-harvest processing goes down. We'll check out those facilities and enjoy all the farm has to offer, from swimming to sleeping in tree houses.
In addition to enjoying Finca Sarita, we'll hike up into Piedra de Plata to see Pure Nacional trees, as verified and designated by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative's genetic testing. The following morning we'll head back to Guayaquil.
This trip is geared toward industry professionals and those looking to enter the industry who want to deepen their knowledge base and make professional connections. If talk of fermentation and exporting interests you as a layperson, though, let's talk.
Ecuador is a well-developed South American country, with decent roads and good political climate. Still, this is a road trip! And we'll be off the beaten path at times, heat, bugs and humidity are de rigeur, driving is much more aggressive and dangerous, and being physically fit is essential to enjoy all activities. If you wouldn't go camping, you're likely to be uncomfortable on this trip.
Absolutely! You'll get an excellent sense of how things work, what's available, what's on the horizon and more. Some producers have cacao available.
The per-person cost of the first trip is a bit dependent on the size of the group, but expect your cost to run between $150-$200/day. This includes breakfast, meals, lodging, transportation, translator, guides, experts, tour fees, entry fees, park donation and the work invested in pulling this all together. It doesn't include airfare, travel insurance, alcohol, guide/translator/driver tips, medical care, incidental expenses or shopping.
Expect more than one trip next year, and more than one itinerary. A trip in May is on the horizon, for example. Please send a message about your interest on the Future Trips link.
Lucky for you, most of the people involved in this project are fluent in English. Even better, Nicole Martinetti will not only help guide the tour, she'll translate. She's fluent in cacao as well as Spanish.
Celebrate craft chocolate with friends, families and coworkers! Bar Cacao hosts online curated chocolate tastings for events large and small, specially tailored to your group for the price of the chocolate and delivery. Drop a line via the Contact page, and don't forget to subscribe. Happy chocolate tasting!