Producing Cocoa & Planning for the Future in Ecuador
A quiet, unassuming village at the foothills of the Andes Mountains holds one of cocoa’s best-kept secrets. Once an outpost for journeying Quechua Indians looking for rest before ascending the Andes, San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador, has made its mark in South America as one of the best regions in which to grow cocoa. Cocoa only grows 20 degrees north or south of the Equator because it prefers hot and humid climates. Fittingly, San Jose Del Tambo’s balmy weather and high altitude, coupled with the roaring waters of the Rio de San Miguela creates one of the world’s best environments for growing superb cocoa beans.
The region’s harvest of cocoa beans is thought to reach back more than 200 years, a well-kept secret until the days of Spanish conquistadors and the explosion of the chocolate movement in Europe. Although the Ecuadorian farmers have had much to be proud of through the centuries, they were undoubtedly underutilized or undervalued.
Our first-ever origin, Shawn Askinosie visited this storied town in 2006 and has been excitedly journeying back every year since. Today, we work with a very small, organized group of family farmers in San Jose Del Tambo. Vitaliano Sarabia has “retired” from the group but remains a symbol for this chocolate bar and our relationship to Del Tambo because of his influence. This small farmer group harvests the rare and highly coveted Arriba Nacional cocoa beans for our international award-winning 70% San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador Dark Chocolate Bar and our 70% San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador Dark Chocolate Nibble™ Bar, among other products. These beans—considered by some to be the best in the world—evoke the unbelievably rich, earthy soil and the farmers’ extreme conscientiousness during the harvest, fermentation and drying processes coaxes the natural, varied flavors of the beans to emerge.