Exotic gourmet chocolate is a hot commodity in world markets, and Ecuador is meeting the demand with ample supply. For chocolate-lovers traveling in Quito, a visit to the the popular Mariscal Foch plaza provides an expedient cacao tour with three local companies—Republica del Cacao, Pacari, and Kallari—which not only grow their own cacao but create specialized brands for adventurous chocolate connoisseurs.
Since the mid-1800s, Ecuador has been producing cacao, the core ingredient in chocolate, to sell to corporate chocolate producers (such as Hershey’s and Nestlé) in the United States. Yet at the end of the 20th century, gourmet chocolate—organic, dark, flavored, and sans milk—emerged as a popular, fashionable ware in the world market. Enterprising Ecuadorians were quick to capitalize on this trend and began to manufacture their own exotic brands targeted towards foreign customers.
Republica del Cacao
Republica del Cacao, on the Mariscal Foch plaza, provides little bowls with tiny chocolate samples. The chocolates themselves are made with varying degrees of cacao solids—the more cacao, the darker—along with extras such as hot peppers or banana chips.
Nearby on Reina Victoria, the gift shop and café Galeria sells the Pacari brand, which has cacao farms across the country. Because the climate and soil in which a bean is grown affects the ultimate flavor of the chocolate bar, Pacari organizes its chocolate bars according to the region in which the cacao was grown. Cacao grown in Los Rios, for example, produces a more fruity-tasting chocolate. Pacari also flavors its chocolate with distinct Andean herbs such as cedron and guayasa.
The Kallari Cafe is the official distributor for the Kallari cacao cooperative, which invests its profits in sustainable farming and a fair-trade compensation for the indigenous community in Ecuador that grows the cacao. As with the Republic del Cacao and Pacari, all of its products are organic.