About our Trip Leader for Ecuador Chocolate Expedition
Lauren Adler, Trip Leader
Founder + Chief Chocophile
Lauren Adler is the Founder and Chief Chocophile of Chocolopolis, a chocolate retail store in Seattle and online at www.chocolopolis.com that offers hundreds of craft chocolate bars. A pioneer in the craft chocolate industry, Lauren opened Chocolopolis in 2008 at the beginning of the craft chocolate movement as one of the first chocolate retail stores in the US to focus on building a customer community through chocolate tastings, experiences and education.
Lauren is a board member of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), a non-profit organization that promotes quality, innovations, ethical sourcing, and best practices in the fine chocolate industry. She has served on the Education Committee of the FCIA since 2015, and she has been a speaker and panelist at numerous FCIA conferences.
In addition to her work for the FCIA, Lauren was a featured speaker and workshop leader at the Dallas Chocolate Festival in 2018 and at the Northwest Chocolate Festival from 2010 through 2018. She served as a judge for the bean-to-bar chocolate competitions at the Good Food Awards (2015 & 2016) and at the Northwest Chocolate Festival (2010 – 2017), and she is a co-Founder of the Pacific Northwest Chocolate Society.
Lauren resides in Seattle with her husband, Mark Kotzer. When she is not tasting chocolate, Lauren enjoys distance swimming in Lake Washington and traveling with her husband.
Instagram: @Chocolopolis & @ChiefChocophile
Twitter: @Chocolopolis & @ChiefChocophile
Discover a World of Chocolate
I am excited to be leading a chocolate expedition to Ecuador. 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 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. Many indigenous communities still farm cacao, and while they may have adapted a handful of modern best practices, much of what they do draws on their ancestors’ preparation methods.
Ecuador offers a dichotomy of the best and the worst of cacao. Renowned for its prized genetic varietal of cacao known as Arriba Nacional, Ecuador is also known for the creation of CCN-51, a genetically-modified variety that is prized by large chocolate conglomerates for its productivity while being 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.
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 Misahualli. 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 Saturday 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 at Republica del Cacao in Quito. Our visit to Ecuador ends with a very special activity. We will join To’ak Chocolate at the former residence of Ecuadorian painter and sculptor, Oswaldo Guayasamin, for a tour of this museum dedicate to his work. Our tour ends with a guided chocolate tasting of four of To’ak’s prized Ecuadorian chocolates.
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!
About Chocolopolis Chocolate Travel Tours
Chocolopolis Founder and Chief Chocophile, Lauren Adler, is excited to be launching the first Chocolopolis Travel Tour with the team at Global Family Travels.
A pioneer in the craft chocolate movement, Chocolopolis was one of the first chocolate retail stores in the US to build a customer community through chocolate tastings and educational events. Chocolopolis has extended these experiences to cacao-growing countries by creating chocolate tours that offer unique and authentic interactions with local communities. Tours have a chocolate focus, weaving history, culture and chocolate tasting into all aspects of the tour while offering opportunities to visit notable tourist attractions in the country and to view local flora and fauna through unique outdoor activities. Trips include a chocolate service component aimed at directly improving the lives of the people in the chocolate communities we visit.
A pioneer in the craft chocolate industry, Chocolopolis opened in 2008 at the beginning of the craft chocolate movement as one of the first chocolate retail stores in the US to focus on building a customer community through chocolate tastings, experiences and education.
With over 100 bars of bean-to-bar chocolate, Chocolopolis offers its customers one of the largest selections of craft chocolate in the US. Akin to a wine store, chocolate bars are grouped by cacao origin, enabling customers to discover the terroir of different cacao-growing regions while learning about cacao farming and chocolate production.
Chocolopolis has a dedicated following among chocophiles in the Seattle area and throughout the US. Chief Chocophile, Lauren Adler, has created a community who rely on her and her team to rigorously vet chocolates before adding them to the Chocolopolis collection. Lauren engages a customer tasting panel to determine which chocolate bars will make the cut. The panel gathers monthly for a blind tasting of chocolates submitted for consideration. Chocolopolis accepts only 3% of the chocolates tasted.