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A Sweet Trip to Ecuador, the Land of Cacao and Modern Craft Chocolate

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Join me on the sweetest trip you will ever take: Our Ecuador Chocolate Expedition! On this trip, we will learn about cacao growing and chocolate making from passionate farmers who are committed to preserving Ecuador’s renowned arriba nacional cacao varietal using sustainable agricultural practices, as well as industry experts about the craft of processing some of the world’s best cacao.

While we see Ecuador through a chocolate lens, we will also enjoy the country’s many natural wonders and cultural traditions, including hiking, bird watching and a chocolate tour through Quito. We'll visit Ecuador's cloud forest of Mindo and the jungles of the Amazon in search of cacao and chocolate, and we'll enjoy great food and chocolate in Ecuador's urban metropolis, Quito.

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There will be a lot of chocolate to taste along the way, including some of the most expensive chocolate in the world. This is a great adventure for chocolate lovers who want to immerse in the history and farming of cacao while also experiencing Ecuador's unique history.

Ecuador's Cloud Forest in Mindo region

Ecuador is a special place for cacao and chocolate. It is renowned for a varietal of cacao called nacional that offers unique floral notes. While there is very little genetically pure nacional left in Ecuador, we are fortunate on our trip to have a guided chocolate tasting with To'ak Chocolate, who have nine cacao trees that were tested by the USDA and proven to be pure nacional. To'ak makes the most expensive chocolate in the world with this cacao, and it will be a pleasure to taste their chocolate creations. This is one of many unique chocolate experiences I look forward to sharing with you on our chocolate adventure.

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. There are two types of artisan in the world of chocolate, "chocolatiers" and "chocolate makers". We will taste the creations of both during our journey with a special emphasis on chocolate makers, the artisans who roast and refine cacao beans to create chocolate. It is these bean-to-bar chocolate makers who transform Ecuador's prized cacao into dark chocolate bars that offer floral, fruity and green grass notes that are typical of Ecuador's terroir.

Ecuador recently gained new prominence as the key player in humans' consumption 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.

But it’s not just about the cacao, it’s about the chocolate. 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. 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.

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!

This trip is offered in September of 2019 and again in May of 2020. Download itinerary here or contact Global Family Travels for more information! Consider taking a trip to the Galapagos Islands before or after this chocolate expedition!

Guest Author: Lauren Adler is Founder of Chocolopolis, a chocolate retail store in Seattle and is a renowned chocolate expert and pioneer in the craft chocolate industry. As Trip Leader of Global Family Travels’ Ecuador Chocolate Expedition, she will lead us in tastings of chocolate throughout our journey and provide additional chocolate education, as we delve into different styles of chocolate from rustic to refined.

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