I just found this drafted post from 2012!! I didn’t realize that I hadn’t posted it. So….with much tardiness, I give you Chocolate in Ecuador!!
With my empending South America Travel looming over my head; I had been seeking out blogs dedicated to South America. I read a wonderful article from Hole In The Donut about a chocolateer in Quito and I was immediately intrigued and knew that I wanted to check this out while in Quito Ecuador.
Jeffery Stern, the owner and chocolatier of Gianduja (I’m seeking out info on the current location – since the old website is no longer valid) has a mission to preserve Ecuador’s Arriba Nacional Cacao, the unique cocoa bean that produces some of Ecuador’s finest grade chocolate. According to what I have learned, the unique cocoa bean is being hybrid with a bean that produces approximately three times the yield. However, with this hybrid and the process to make it into chocolate; it is degrading both grades of cocoa. Jeffery hopes to eventually purchase directly from the growers and utilize and encourage the use of the finer grade cocoa. It’s an encouraging endeavor.
Jeffery uses all local ingredients in the chocolates (when possible) and although no expert in chocolate, my conclusion is that they are all fabulous! Jeffery uses a variety of fresh ingredients and has a varied product line to suit many tastes: Andean Blackberry, Coconut, Salted Caramel and Taxo are just a few and my favorites.
Even after being tossed around in a backpack from Ecuador through Miami and on to Cancun! Andean Blackberry is my favorite. The coconut runs a close second and the Mexican with a mild hint of spice third. Although I have my favorites; you can’t go wrong with any of them. Even Teresa; who claims to dislike dark chocolate….took home a pound.
Jeffery was a gracious host and explained much to us regarding his struggles and accomplishments alike. We were also given multiple samples as we talked.
I ended up with a pound of chocolates for myself and another pound for a wedding gift for my friends wedding in Cancun. I will report happily that the chocolates arrived in Cancun a little less than perfect but much better than I expected. They were received well.
We waited for Jeffery while watching her cook the caramel to just the right temperature. The smells were overwhelming and wonderful. I think I gained inches on my waist just from the aroma in the room. When Jeffery arrived, the caramel was ready and we were invited to join him in the kitchen to observe.
The chocolate making operation takes place in just two small rooms. A kitchen and an assembly room (not certain what else to call it). The racks of finished chocolates greeted us with a wonderful array of colors and the beautiful aroma of chocolate.
If you happen to be in Quito Ecuador, stop by and see Jeffery at Gianduja. On approaching the address on his website; be aware that there is no signage outside of the iron gate indicated. Just press the intercom button and someone will buzz you in. We pushed the intercom button and were told to enter by a sweet Ecuadorian lady. I can’t recall her name but she works with Jeffery and has learned all of his secrets. He beams as he tells us about her and it’s obvious that she is very important to him and his wife.