Ecuador, the diminutive country sandwiched between its larger, better-known neighbours Colombia and Peru, boasts of its high-quality Nacional beans. Los Ríos province is the center of bean production in Ecuador, where a total of 450,000 hectares are dedicated to cultivating the Theobroma cacao tree. Ecuador is known for the mellow white-seeded beans; except to chocolate connoisseurs, however, Ecuadorian chocolate-makers lack the international brand recognition and production scope of French, Italian, Swiss & Belgian brands.
Although Ecuador supplies a large proportion of the world’s cacao beans, most of it is shipped off to the USA, France, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, among others, where the beans are processed and mixed with other ingredients and molded into the ubiquitous chocolate bar. As a result, those who pick the cacao fruit are far removed from the upmarket boutiques that carry the final product.
During the 2011 Chocolate Week, the Ecuadorian Embassy presented a selection of chocolates sought to highlight some of Ecuador’s home-grown chocolate brands, such as Chchkululu and gourmet brands Kallari and Pacari. The chocolates ranged from Pacari’s lightly-sweetened ‘green’, fresh-from-the-seed flavors to Kallari’s sweeter varieties with a strong hint of vanilla bean. The locally-based companies work closely with the individuals who harvest the beans to ensure that they reap the fruits of their labors.