By Chaney Kwak
Originally appeared in October 2015 issue of Virtuoso Traveler
Like wine, quality chocolate has unique taste profiles marked by the soil and climate in which the beans were grown – aka terroir. And nowhere is chocolate’s terroir more pronounced than in Ecuador, the world’s oldest known cacao producer and its biggest cultivator of high-end beans.
“Part of the reason cacao beans thrive in Ecuador is the diversity of our microclimates,” says Quito-based Virtuoso travel advisor Galo Bravo. “Travelers can tour plantations with traditions dating back more than 150 years and get to know the secrets behind organic cacao crops from the coast to the Amazon.” Often produced on family-owned farms, Ecuador’s heirloom varietals are sweetly bitter, satisfyingly rich, and plentiful in antioxidants, deserving of chocolate’s original moniker: the food of the gods.
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- In Quito’s Old Town, 31-room Casa Gangotena recently launched on-site chocolate-tasting experiences, available on Mondays. Doubles from $420; Virtuoso amenities include breakfast daily and a chef’s six-course tasting menu with wine.
- Your travel advisor works with Virtuoso’s on-site tour operator to craft journeys that trace the source of chocolate in the Amazon. Departures: Any day through December 31, 2015; two-day tours from $933.
- Cocooned in a cloud forest, 22-room Mashpi Lodge offers chocolate tastings and fine dining that incorporates Ecuadorean cacao. Doubles from $1,205 per three-day stay, including all meals, guided explorations, and round-trip transfers from Quito; Virtuoso amenities include a $100 spa credit.