Vintage chocolate

  "Fine" or "flavour" beans, the top-quality varieties used in gourmet products because of their superior taste, account for only 5% of the world's cocoa production, but demand is increasing. Much like wine, chocolate reflects the flavours of the region where cocoa beans are grown, and how they are dried and fermented.  Over the last decade, as the demand for more flavourful cocoa has risen, Ecuador has emerged as the pre-eminent exporter of fine beans. It is a favourite destination for globetrotting chocolatiers in search of the best, and cocoa production has also become a sustainable source of income for Ecuador's farmers. "Farmers didn't use to pay much attention to cocoa," says Ignacio Estupinan, a 66-year-old farmer who is known in the area as Don Nacho. "Now everybody knows how valuable cocoa is. It's the best business we have," he adds. Scholars believe cocoa plants first grew in the Amazon basin, possibly in the area that now corresponds to Venezuela, another large cocoa exporter.  Ecuador's native cocoa beans are known as "Nacional" or "Arriba", a name believed to derive from the location of its discovery. Arriba means "up river" and many cocoa plantations were located along the Guayas river, which flows towards the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city.

 

"Fine" or "flavour" beans, the top-quality varieties used in gourmet products because of their superior taste, account for only 5% of the world's cocoa production, but demand is increasing.

Much like wine, chocolate reflects the flavours of the region where cocoa beans are grown, and how they are dried and fermented. 

Over the last decade, as the demand for more flavourful cocoa has risen, Ecuador has emerged as the pre-eminent exporter of fine beans.

It is a favourite destination for globetrotting chocolatiers in search of the best, and cocoa production has also become a sustainable source of income for Ecuador's farmers.

"Farmers didn't use to pay much attention to cocoa," says Ignacio Estupinan, a 66-year-old farmer who is known in the area as Don Nacho.

"Now everybody knows how valuable cocoa is. It's the best business we have," he adds.

Scholars believe cocoa plants first grew in the Amazon basin, possibly in the area that now corresponds to Venezuela, another large cocoa exporter. 

Ecuador's native cocoa beans are known as "Nacional" or "Arriba", a name believed to derive from the location of its discovery. Arriba means "up river" and many cocoa plantations were located along the Guayas river, which flows towards the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city.