The Big Deal About Chocolate
The old history of chocolate is the story of how people forgot where it came from. The recent history is about re-discovering its origins.
What you should know if you visit Ecuador is that, although this country does not produce an especially large amount of cocoa, it does produce the greatest volume of fine or flavor beans in the world.
The term fine or flavor is used by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and refers to cocoa beans which have a distinctive flavor, distinguishing them from “bulk” beans. Bulk beans are cocoa varieties that have a chocolate flavor, but lack certain properties or tasting “notes” found in flavor beans, which give a floral and fruity aftertaste.
Flavor beans actually represent a very small percentage of world cocoa production – only five percent. But the majority of those flavor beans – 60 to 70 percent – are grown in Ecuador. In contrast, Ivory Coast grows ten times more cocoa than Ecuador, but none of it is fine or flavor.
Cocoa is currently classified under ten categories or clusters, one of which is the fine or flavor cocoa of Ecuador known as “nacional” or national cocoa.
Ecuadorian cocoa is often referred to as “arriba” cocoa, a name derived from the location of its discovery centuries ago, “up river,” from Guayaquil along the Guayas River in the area of present day Manabi, Los Rios, and Quevedo. Arriba cocoa is part of the national cluster and simply refers to the region from which it comes, distinguishable by its aroma and flavor.
Lourdes Delgado, cocoa expert and producer of the Chchukululu Chocolate brand (it means “singing bird” in Quechua) says there is something particular about the “up river” location that gives it these unique characteristics.
Places to find great chocolate in Quito:
Cyril Boutique: Cyril Prudhomme is a French pastry chef who came to Ecuador five years ago. Last year he opened Cyril Boutique, which is attempting to take chocolate (and other pastries and breads) to another level in Ecuador.
Chez Jerome: Jerome Monteillet, better known as Chez Jerome to Quito diners, uses cocoa in at least one terrific dish, which is not even a dessert: “We mix French techniques with flavors here. I like to make a filet mignon with bacon and on top put a layer of sal prieta – a mix of peanut and salt which is prepared in the province of Manabi. I serve it with a sauce with a cacao base. It is a French style sauce but instead of aromatizing it with cognac or with pepper, I do it with 100 percent cocoa.”
Ecuador Galeria Gourmet: This is the place to buy your gifts for taking home, including all the great brands of original, fine or flavor chocolate produced in Ecuador.