Tasty Delights Along Ecuador’s Cacao Route

Adventurous travelers have long known that Ecuador has much to offer. Located along the northwest coast of South America, with Peru and Columbia as neighbors, Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries on the continent. In addition to the wealth of nature on the mainland, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador are legendary for their fascinating animals, both on land and underwater, many of which are endemic to the area. Ecuador was accredited as Best Destination in 2013 by National Geographic Traveler magazine, and recently the country’s Cacao Route made it onto the magazine’s list of Best Trips for 2014.

A tour of the Cacao Route starts at the city of Guayaquil before traveling around 100 kms to the little town of Vince, the original home of Arriba chocolate. Arriba is acknowledged by chocolate connoisseurs all over the world as being one of the finest cacao beans available. True Arriba chocolate is made from cacao grown in the upper regions of the Guayas River in the provinces of Guayas, Bolivar, Los Rios and part of Cotopaxi. The story of the discovery of Arriba goes that in the 19th century a Swiss chocolatier was traveling along the Guayas River when he met up with some men carrying freshly harvested cacao. His discerning sense of smell immediately recognized quality in the aroma from the crop and enquired where it had come from. The response to the question was “de rio arriba”, meaning “upriver”, and since then this aromatic cacao has been known as “Arriba”.

In Guayaquil visitors will be taken through a chocolate manufacturing factory where they can come to an appreciation of the intricacies of producing gourmet chocolate, while a visit to Hacienda Cañas will reveal the science, and tradition, behind cultivating cacao plants. At the organic farm in the Rio Muchacho community, visitors can enjoy the experience of making chocolate from the beans through to the cup.

The flavor and aroma of cacao, and by extension chocolate, is influenced by climate, positioning of the crop, soil composition, the ripening process, time of harvest and the fermentation procedure. Traveling the Cacao Route of Ecuador gives visitors the opportunity to discover the story of chocolate – from the cultivating of the bean right through to the first delicious taste.