Chocolate is a treat that accompanies us throughout our life – in our happy and not-so-happy moments, we all find comfort in this beloved food. Some people even refer to it as “the food of the gods,” so for chocolate connoisseurs, this information might be attractive as they learn new facts about this fantastic and versatile goodie. For example, did you know that Ecuador is the motherland of chocolate? The country is responsible for 65% of the highest-quality chocolate available globally, even though it grows less than 10% of the world’s cacao.
Ecuador has long been recognized when talking about great quality chocolate. Still, in 2018, the country was declared the birthplace of this versatile ingredient when archaeological research found chocolate traces in ancient pottery used by the Indigenous Mayo-Chinchipe civilization. This find placed the chocolate’s origin back over 5,300 years. The Mayo-Chinchipe civilization used cacao beans for food and ceremonial drinks, making it one of the foundations of their lifestyle.
Even before this last discovery, Ecuador was an established chocolate destination because it’s where “Nacional,” the world’s rarest bean (also considered the best cacao to exist), originated. This type of bean was reborn 15 years ago when “Nacional” trees were rediscovered in Arriba, a cacao-growing region located in the coastal provinces of Ecuador after they had been considered extinct for a century following an outbreak of diseases in the plant. Ecuador is also home to the “CCN-51 Cacao” bean, which is well known for its red color and is used to produce chocolates, cosmetics, and derivates. Agronomist Homero Castro Zurita created this last type of bean to help growers with crop production numbers after a disease called “Witches’ Broom” broke most cacao producers.
Make sure to try out this chocolate tour route next time you are in Ecuador, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to taste the highest quality chocolate. In Quito, you can go to To’Ak Chocolate, where you can taste high-end bars from Nacional trees and see the former residence of artist Oswaldo Guayasamín; visit Steben Gaviño’s La Chocolatería de Autor, where you can experience chocolate in its art form through a chocolate experience box.
In Guayaquil, you can visit Chokolat, which has six locations around the port city, where you can purchase muffins, truffles, tasting boxes, and hot chocolate to finish up the chocolate experience; indulge at Ampuero Chocolates, who are the experts on pastries and chocolate that is made out of the highest quality cacao from Hacienda La Victoria. Travel to La Chocolatería de Natalia Areco, who are experts in the chocolate-making process.
In the province of Manabí, Cardenas Chocolate works with local producers to create bars of Arriba Nacional chocolate that travelers can taste to get a sense of Ecuador’s cocoa appeal. Lastly, you can go to Mindo in the Andes Mountains, where El Quetzal de Mindo offers cacao-themed tours so travelers can get a closer look at the chocolate-making process while tasting it. To complete your chocolate experience, head to the Cacao Museum to learn more about the history and tradition of this magical and beloved ingredient.