Travelogue: Meret & Ivo in Ecuador visiting Hacienda Limon and Tesoro Escondido
Exactly one year ago, in mid-July 2021, I traveled for the first time to a country of origin of cocoa, destination of the trip: Ecuador. In the capital Quito, I was welcomed by two friends who had already spent 2 months in Ecuador. The next month we would explore the country together and especially visit our cacao partner Tesoro Esconido in Ecuador.
However, before heading into the hot and humid jungle, we toured the Andes, the highlands of Ecuador. A short but very adventurous side trip to the almost 6000 meter high picture book volcano Cotopaxi, the landmark of Ecuador, was of course not to be missed.
From minus 14 degrees on the summit we went directly to the 25 degrees warm Amato, where Ivo was waiting for us with his rental car. Five hours of driving and one car tire less we finally reached Quevedo to the Hacienda Limon, where we were warmly welcomed by Silvia. The next two days were spent tasting, discussing, marveling at the new fermentation plant and, a personal highlight, tasting for the first time the pulp (the flesh) of a fresh cocoa bean: tender, sweet with a very fine acidity – incredibly refreshing!
The onward journey to Tesoro Escondido was adventurous as well as varied. We stopped at a vanilla plantation, crossed a river on a tiny ferry, bumped over potholes for 4 hours and dodged countless trucks filled with tropical wood. In Hoja verde (odr bianca? forget name) we were warmly welcomed by Javier’s family, who after a well-deserved after-work beer drove us another 30 minutes into the jungle on their pickup truck. After that, we were faced with an equally long walk through the mud. Already during the first 100 meters one of my rubber boots was stuck so deep in the mud that I only got out of the swamp with the help of Ricardo, Javier’s oldest son. Arrived in the beautiful house of the family Magali expected us with a lovingly prepared dinner.
The next days Javier and Ricardo showed us their property with all the old and new cacao trees and the ancient primary forest. Back at the house, we got down to the nitty-gritty: Javier had prepared nearly 20 microfermentations from different trees for us to taste and evaluate together to find our favorite flavor profile. Our three favorite beans would then be planted, which specifically means grafted onto old trees. This is a very long-term project, based on great mutual trust and strengthening the bond between laflor and ASCOPROTESCO.
To celebrate our visit, in the afternoon all the farmers of ASCOPROTESCO gathered at Javier and his family’s house and we tasted together laflor chocolates. It was very nice to meet all the faces and names behind the project.
In the evening we celebrated again, but this time not our visit but Javier’s 50th birthday. We spent the night singing, laughing and playing with the whole family.
The next morning it was time to say goodbye and go back to civilization. Not only did we say goodbye to Tesoro Escondido, but also to Ivo, who continued his journey to the coast, while my friends and I headed south. On the day of my return flight, I was allowed to get another whiff of chocolate air, because I visited the production of HUMA Chocolate in Quito, where again an extremely warm team and an extensive tasting were waiting for me. With a lot of chocolate and even more memories in my luggage, I then headed home.
You can visit both cocoa producers in Ecuador, if you are interested you are welcome to contact the manufactory.