Story of the Month:
Smiling and standing proudly by the whirling noisy cacao roasting machine a small group of men from the Eco-Cacao cooperative showed off the new operation.
Cacao is never turned into chocolate in the places itâ€™s grown. Itâ€™s unheard of. Most people who grow cacao have never even tasted real chocolate. Perhaps a taste of over sweetened milk chocolate…but not real chocolate. And certainly, without a doubt, no one within 100 kilometers had ever seen chocolate being made…
And here we were, a few crazy gringos and crafty local artisans whoâ€™d been working for weeks to build a simple machine to make chocolate right there where it has been grown for centuries and shipped all around the world. Chocolate for the people!
The unfamiliar aroma is what warned the town of this new part of the community…
The smell of fresh roasting cacao wafted through the tropical air, picked up by the day breeze blowing offshore from the verdant hills above Tonchigue, Ecuador, out across the cobalt Pacific Ocean. Amidst the usual smells of the village, cacao stood out like a flashy and successful villager who made his fortune on the high seas or in the big city, and waltzed back in to town to the surprise of the sleepy village. The usual smells of roasting chicken, rich fecund soil, fresh fish plucked from the ocean and the oily smell of old motor bikes spluttering from the main road back into the hills was washed clean by this new visitor. The town stood still for a moment and all noses turned towards the unlikely source of this visiting aroma.
The wine-like smell of fermenting cacao, and the deep smell of wooden fermentation boxes set the undertone of the amazing symphony of smell. A cacophony of interested voices chattering in curiosity soon came rushing towards this bright
chocolatey new smell disrupting the hustle and bustle of Tonchigueâ€™s market.
Edilberto, Amado and I kept working for hours as pretty much everyone in town came by to check out the â€œmachinariaâ€. The local big shots even ambled in to have a look. Big belly hanging out of a sweaty white polo shirt and a fancy Land Rover waiting out front, the local big shot smiled, tasted a little and let us know he didnâ€™t think a machine this small could make chocolate this good.
I smiled and my friend Amado frowned. Big fella walked off and I turned to Amado…No importa que dice el (itâ€™s not important what he thinks…) â€œSolo esta celosoâ€ (heâ€™s just jealous) I said to the laughter of all the campesinos.
We had done it…brought artisan cacao roasting and milling right here to the back water of the Ecuadorian coast. Hope and inspiration gleaming in our eyes we kept roasting and milling cacao…paying attention to every detail and making the amazing cacao liquor that we carefully brought back to Colorado to turn into the bright, fruit flavored Cacao Nacional that we are all enjoying so much.