GASTRONOMY FOR FOODIES

Fall in Love with Ecuadorian Chocolate

AUTHOR Caroline Eaton

During February love is in the air… or at least in the Ecuadorian Chocolate!

You’ve heard of Ecuador because of the famous Galapagos Islands, where wildlife wanders without fear, and Ecuador’s captivating Amazon that holds an astounding biodiversity, but did you know that Ecuador is considered the Land of Chocolate?

cacao-hacienda

What makes Ecuadorian Chocolate unique?

A recent study suggests that the cacao plant originated in the Ecuadorian Amazon and is home to some of the oldest varieties of cocoa trees. Specifically, the Arriba cocoa beans make Ecuadorian chocolate extra special, offering aromas and flavors unique to each region of Ecuador where the cocoa bean is grown.  Cacao trees grow in tropical climates on both sides of the Andes: in the Pacific coastal lowlands and among the towering trees of the Amazon rainforest.

Ecuadorian chocolate can range from having floral characteristics to nutty or fruity aromas depending on where the bean is grown, which adds to the chocolate’s complexity. The chocolate in Ecuador is customized to the region and aromas that each batch of beans has. Single-origin dark chocolate and bars flavored with tropical fruits or Amazon “super leaves” are among the most popular in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian farmers are proud to boast of their “Black Gold”, the smooth, bitter tasting paste extracted from the cacao bean and the main ingredient in chocolate. Due to Ecuador’s location along the equator, combined with its land diversity, the cacao beans produced in the country are among the best in the world.

Since 2012, Ecuador has been receiving gold medals from the International Chocolate Awards for their chocolate.

La Tierra Del Chocolate Tour,  “Land of Chocolate Tour”

We are now offering our guests the opportunity to learn about the chocolate history, experience the cocoa plantation and taste for themselves the delicious, one-of-a-kind, high quality chocolate.

Only a few hours from the two main cities in Ecuador, Quito and Guayaquil, you will find yourself exploring cacao tree plantations, learning about the growing process, fermentation, drying, and even trying your hand at making some home-made, artisanal chocolate for yourself.

The Land of Chocolate Tour is not only about tasting delicious chocolate, but encountering the rural world of Ecuador. Up until the 20th century cocoa beans were Ecuador’s number one export until farmers started focusing on coffee and bananas. With new demands for luxury chocolate, Ecuador has reemerged as a leader in exporting high quality cocoa beans.

The Cocoa Plantation at Hacienda El Castillo

Located one hour from Guayaquil, El Castillo’s beautiful property has 600 acres of land. This working farm primarily produces aromatic cacao which is processed in its own chocolate factory. Besides the cocoa plantation, there is a very good production of coffee, mango, and has an important extension of tropical dry forest among other varieties of indigenous and endemic trees like Kapoks, Holy Wood Trees, Balsa Wood, Guayacan with its beautiful yellow flowers.

El Castillo is also a great place for bird watching, hiking and horse riding, and one of the best places near Guayaquil to experience a tropical working farm.  It is ideal to spend the day here and enjoy a traditional dish from the coastal lands, like ceviche, and a try some of the best and most exotic tropical fruits from our low lands.

We offer a day tour from Guayaquil to the nearby Cocoa Plantation at Hacienda el Castillo, the rate is $282 per person for a fully guided private tour for the day, including lunch.