Move over Willy Wonka, Ecuador has small-scale cacao farms and chocolate producers that are far more entertaining and authentic than any fictional tale. In fact, many researchers have come to believe that the chocolate plant, Theobroma cacao, first came to be domesticated in Ecuador thousands of years ago. And though Ecuador was once the top exporter of cacao, today the South American nation produces some of the best chocolate in the world using sustainable, local practices.
Follow us (as well as your nose and stomach) on a custom-made chocolate tour in Ecuador. We will walk you through all you need to know about cacao and chocolate in Ecuador in a sensorial and immersive experience that combines the rich delicacy with history, culture and sustainability.
History of cacao in Ecuador
The rich, crave-worthy qualities of fine chocolate are nothing new, and yet the exact origins and date of domestication of Theobroma cacao (the cacao tree) remain a mystery. A recent discovery, however, has proven that chocolate has been a part of society for far longer than we previously thought! In 2018, traces of DNA pertaining to the Theobroma cacao were found in pottery in the Mayo-Chinchipe ruins in the Andes of Ecuador.
Prior to this finding, it was believed that cacao had first been domesticated by the Mayans in Central America around 450 BC. Now we know that one of the earliest uses of cacao— be it for nutritional or ceremonial purposes —was in Ecuador! It is most likely that cacao seeds and plants traveled from Ecuador’s Amazon jungle to Central America.
With such a long history with cacao, it is only right to celebrate Ecuadorian chocolate on a tailor-made chocolate tour!
Ecuador chocolate tour
From additions of hot chili, tingling sea salt and sweet tropical fruits, Ecuadorian chocolate producers are having fun with their chocolate bars despite their serious rank in the world of chocolate. And who better to learn from than experts in the field!
On a personalized chocolate tour in Ecuador with Kuoda, you will witness first-hand the process and passion that goes into producing exquisite bars of chocolate. Here are a few of the cities and towns that can be a part of your chocolate tour in Ecuador:
Tucked among colorful shops and restaurants belonging to the charming La Ronda street in Quito, Ecuador, Chez Tiff Chocolatier proves you don’t have to venture to the middle of the jungle to taste top-quality handcrafted chocolate.
Though every visitor receives an explanation of Ecuador’s cacao history, Kuoda can organize a customized and private workshop for a more in-depth experience. During the class, you will also learn about the chocolate tempering process used by Chez Tiff.
Sample chocolates that range from 60% to 90% cacao, some of which are elevated by the inclusion of macadamia, passion fruit and coffee. Don’t forget to indulge in a hand massage with cacao butter moisturizing cream.
– Quito Old Town
As a responsible luxury travel operator, Kuoda is proud to include a visit to the Yumbos chocolate company on any Ecuador itinerary. This Fair Trade Project has earned numerous national awards for its high-quality chocolate bars while supporting rural communities in Los Rios, Esmeraldas and Napo provinces.
In alliance with a social project supporting women, Yumbos ethically pays fair wages to families that have few employment opportunities. They also encourage and preserve traditional farming techniques that have a long-term, positive impact on the local environment.
On a guided tour with Yumbos designed by Kuoda, you will be given a cacao history and tasting lesson as well as an in-depth look into the already transparent work that the company does to be considered Fair Trade.
Located just a 1.5-hour drive northwest of Quito, the quaint town of Mindo is the gateway to Ecuador’s cloud forest. A literal breath of fresh air from the capital city, Mindo is also nearby beautiful, sprawling cacao farms.
In Mindo, you can stay the night at El Quetzal, a cozy accommodation that also produces fine Ecuadorian chocolate. By using cacao sourced from a single cooperative of farmers that also ferment and dry the beans, El Quetzal positively impacts the community by creating sustainable employment opportunities.
On this leg of the Ecuador chocolate tour, you will walk through the entire chocolate-making process: from opening ripe cacao and removing the seeds to selecting nibs and removing cocoa butter. The on-site organic garden is full of inspiring produce that often finds its way into the fine Ecuadorian chocolate bars!
Known as the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, Guayaquil is also the portal to one of Kuoda’s favorite luxury properties in Ecuador: La Danesa Hacienda. An hour’s drive from the city of Guayaquil, just before the marvelous Andes, La Danesa is a 1,200-acre estate in the heart of cacao plantations.
A 2-3 hour tour includes harvesting ripe cacao and turning it into your own signature chocolate bar. While waiting for the chocolate bars to cool, sip on traditional hot or cold Ecuadorian chocolate. In this private workshop, you will not only learn about the chocolate-making process but also La Danesa’s commitment to fair trade practices and how they are positively impacting the local economy.
This will be just one of the numerous immersive experiences that you can participate in while at the nature-forward hacienda. If time admits, consider spending a night or two at La Danesa to soak up the garden views, spa and outdoor activities.
– Santa Rita
A small community located in the northwestern Amazon of Ecuador, Santa Rita has become a key player in the national cacao scene thanks to its natural biodiversity and focus on sustainability. Sip on guayusa, a native plant turned energizing tea that has been around for centuries, as you tour sloping cacao plantations of the ethical chocolate company, Pacari.
Not only does the organic chocolate company aim to preserve Ecuador’s native Arriba Nacional cacao, but Pacari also claims the title of being the first in Ecuador to produce a tree-to-bar, single-origin organic chocolate.
Visit the Kichwa community to learn directly from locals about what it takes to nurture and harvest top-ranked cacao. Accompanied by a chocolatier, you will then taste the bars of Pacari and note the flavor profiles that range from fruity to floral. All the while, your participation helps support the sustainable practices of this remote community.
Enjoy a Chocolate Tour with Kuoda
Whether you are a fan of milk or dark chocolate, all travelers can appreciate fine-tasting chocolate that positively impacts local communities and the environment. Join Kuoda on a chocolate tour in Ecuador and you will never see cacao products the same. Depending on your trip length, we can design a wide-ranging tour that includes luxury stays and other immersive activities to compliment your tour of ethical chocolate companies.