It was almost impossible to grow national cocoa of fine aroma in 2009 in Guayaquil,why? It was believed that this variety was unproductive and very weak because it was not resistant to pests. Despite the warnings, Carlos García, owner of Hacienda Victoria, took the risk to fulfill his dream: recover the ancestral flavors of this fruit, its aroma of flowers and nuts. And he did it with the help of science and technology. They currently produce 40 quintals per hectareper year and are one of the main exporters of this variety.
Now they face another challenge: agrotourism. The farm, located at kilometer 95 of the road to the coast, wants to share the history, the cultivation, the differences between a national cocoa of fine aroma and others with tourists.For this they invited tourist operators, hotel representatives and the media to show this new tourism proposal.
Cristina Chóez, director of Hacienda Tourism Victoria, is convinced that visitors can enjoy a different experience that will allow them to see cocoa from another perspective and also taste a real chocolate.
The tour begins with the visit to the cocoa crops, where Chóez explains that the fruit is of Amazonian origin and that it was during the exchange of products between the Mayo-Chinchipe and Valdivia culture (3,500 years before Christ),that the cocoa It was transferred from the Sierra to the Coast and from there it spread throughout the Americas. A theory that is corroborated by the archaeologist Francisco Valdez, who cites: “The presence of cocoa in the upper Amazon in general and specifically in the social context of Santa Ana-LaFlorida are much earlier than the consumption of cocoa in Mesoamerica.”
A fact that very few of the attendees knew. Then, Aida Cedeño, an expert in cocoa grafts, explains how to make a lateral pruning and another of buds, as well as care to prevent the plant from dying.
Before oing to the fermentation area, the group participates in a test of the cocoa mucilage, which also produces a delicious juice that does not need sugar.
During the explanation of the fermentation, Chóez insists that it is crucial to respect these processes. At Hacienda Victoria they have 74 varieties and each one has a fermentation protocol, if something is changed it will affect the taste of the cocoa.
The tour concludes with the tasting of cocoa liquor, an infusion prepared with thepeel of this fruit, and finally a workshop of the grain to the premium chocolate bar.
The chocolatier Arturo Maldonado together with his sister María Gracia, from Saqua Chocolates, are in charge of this intensive course. Once they receive the grain, they select it for roasting, they are cooled, they break it in a milland remove the cocoa nib, which is milled into a paste called cocoa liquor.
Maldonadostops a moment for everyone to taste this liquor. Our taste buds savor the sweet, salty, sour, bitter and delicious cocoa.
Finally,to get chocolate, add sugar, additional cocoa butter and then temper it to put it in a mold, chill it and get a chocolate.
Carol Villao, operator of Hamaca Tropical Tours, was surprised by the extensive information on the history of cocoa.
“It exceeded my expectations, the experience of making cocoa with the chocolatieris spectacular, seeing it so closely, the way to freeze the bar, it was an enriching, didactic experience, very good, I really liked it”.
Important facts about cocoa
The flower of the cocoa plant is pollinated by the fly Forcypomia.
In the world there are more than 10 types of cocoa and of these more than 30 thousand varieties, only in Ecuador there are 5000.
Of the4 million tons that are exported from cocoa, 1.7 million are from Côte d’Ivoire(Africa), 900,000 from Ghana (Africa), and only 200,000 tons are fine aroma cocoa and of these, approximately 100,000 are from Ecuador, that is why our ountry is the first exporter.
PerSe, a 3-star Michelin-starred New York restaurant, uses in its triple cocoa chocolate cake from Hacienda Victoria.
It offers visit to the nursery, history of the Victoria farm, tasting of the cocoa liquor and visit to the viewpoint, more snack, hydration, transport and guide.Cost: from $ 79 (for groups of 30 people), or $ 345 for a tourist.
Tourin cocoa crops and fermentation areas, plus a workshop for making chocolate,snack, hydration, lunch and transportation. Cost: from $ 115 to $ 729. Free Destination Operator. Contact: 601-5188 or 093-954-1858. (I)