I’ve got much more to share with you about our chocolate travel in Ecuador.
We explored Old Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in this post and got detained in a mudslide in this post. You met ex-pat (American) chocolatier Jeff Stern and Elizabeth Hendley, an ex-pat (Canadian) cacao grower and owner of the Chocolate Jungle Lodge in these posts.
Now … it’s time to introduce you to a company that is comprised of native Kichwa Ecuadorians who are growing cacao collectively as the Asociación Kallari cacao growers’ cooperative. Kallari Chocolate transforms its cacao into delicious chocolate products in a small factory near Misahualli, where we were staying at the Chocolate Jungle Lodge. During our visit, Kallari was building its brand new factory, which will have a tasting parlour and viewing room from where you can watch the chocolate being made. The new Kallari facility is planned to open in late 2013.
Kallari’s story is an interesting one. In Peru, we met cacao farmers and learned how they grow, harvest and ferment the cacao. But they don’t make it into chocolate. The cacao is bagged and delivered to chocolate companies (domestically and internationally) who may complete the fermentation process to their specifications and then custom roast the beans before they are crushed and transformed into cocoa liquor and ultimately … chocolate.
The Kallari cooperative is comprised of 850 families living in five different counties and 21 different villages within the Napo province of Ecuador. In all, there are 3,500 Kichwa people involved in the entire bean-to-bar process, selecting and germinating the cacao beans into seedlings, planting and nurturing them, and then harvesting the beans, fermenting them, and roasting, crushing, and conching the cocoa nibs for a mere 8-12 hours (in contrast to European-style chocolate which may be conched for 48-100 hours to make it smooth and creamy.)
Kallari makes two distinctly different kinds of chocolate bars. The larger, 70- gram “gourmet” Kallari bars are gluten free and exported and available for purchase at Whole Foods and selected shops such as SOMA chocolate maker in Toronto. The smaller 50-gram Sacha bars are presently only retailed in Ecuador. You can buy both types of bars and Kallari couverture (used for baking and making your own chocolate creations) online via the Chocosphere site.
The Sacha bars are my preference and truly decadent as they have a silkier texture and come in enticing flavours such as ginger that infuses three forms of fresh ginger and Andean salt into each tiny bar. Ultimately creative, and the fresh ginger flavour is intense, just the way I like it. In recent months, additional flavours have been added to the Sacha lineup and now include lemongrass, pineapple, banana chips, and more.
Kallari Chocolate also has a blog at http://kallarichocolate.blogspot.ca/ where you’ll find an assortment of recipes and additional information about the cooperative. Just click on one of the colourful pictures to read each full post and access the chocolate-focused recipes.
As an increasing number of consumers look to companies providing organic, natural products where they can trace the roots back to the producers, Kallari is an excellent choice for chocolate lovers with a social conscience. Kallari cacao growers earn a much healthier living via their membership in the cooperative than independent growers do, and are therefore better able to care for their families. I urge you to look for organic, sustainable chocolate like Kallari via the Chocosphere site or wherever you buy your chocolate.