Pacha sign in front of chocolate factory.
Cocoa Beans in bowl at Chocolates Pacha

Cocoa Beans in bowl at Chocolates Pacha

Tourists visit Puerto Lopez, Ecuador for three major reasons: Isla de la Plata, whale watching and the beach. What they miss is a lesson in fine chocolate making at Chocolates Pacha.

Pacha sign in front of chocolate factory.

Pacha sign in front of chocolate factory.

Angel Zurita and Veronica Alvarez, owners, begin by cultivating the cocoa bean at two orchards close to their Puerto Lopez operation. They offer a tour which includes a visit to the closer orchard. I never really thought about how chocolate becomes chocolate. My chocolate as always had “Mounds” written on the wrapper. I was getting ready to learn much more about the process:

A small group gathers at the Pacha facility. Our group of nine people piled into Angel’s van and made the short 15 minute trip to a grove of cocoa trees. The beans snuggle against the truck of the trees where they are easily harvested when mature.

This tiny flower is the bean's origin. Notice how it grows from the trunk of the tree.

This tiny flower is the bean’s origin. Notice how it grows from the trunk of the tree.

Angel splits open the pod to reveal the white membrane covered cocoa seeds.

Angel splits open the pod to reveal the white membrane covered cocoa seeds.

Angel pulled off one of the beans and split it open revealing a cluster of white, neatly packed seeds. He offered each member of the group to take a seed and eat it. It’s not exactly eating because the white covering is a sweet membrane type substance and the seed within is hard. When you have removed as much of the white covering as possible, you spit out the seed.

Next we learned about the intensive process:

Stage One: Fermentation, Drying and Roasting

1. The seeds are put into cedar boxes to ferment. Fermentation takes about 5-8 days. The white substance becomes a liquid and oozes from the box. Fermentation breaks down the sugars in the cocoa fruit.

Roasting the bean to bring out the flavor, just like with coffee.

Roasting the bean to bring out the flavor, just like with coffee.

2. After drying the beans are roasted and the thin shells are separated from the meaty part of the bean, Then the cocoa is roasted in order to caramelize the sugars and bring out rich flavor. The cocoa kernel is one of the healthiest food you can eat.

Winnowing machine to separate the nib from the shell.

Winnowing machine to separate the nib from the shell.

 

Stage Two: Grinding

3.  The kernels are ground in a stone grinder. For two-three days, two granite wheels grind the chocolate down to become a smooth consistency. Organic evaporated cane juice is added to the mixture.

Granite wheels make the cocoa smooth and silky.

Granite wheels make the cocoa smooth and silky.

Stage Three: Temper

4. The skill and art of chocolate making is at this point to keep the chocolate in temper. It must to be heated and cooled in a very specific fashion just before it’s molded.

Stage Four: Wrapping the chocolate

All of our chocolate bars are carefully hand-wrapped. Making craft bean-to-bar chocolate is a long and difficult process, but a satisfying process to make the best chocolate on earth.

3-PodOnTree

Cocoa pods ready for harvest. The tree produces fruit all year long. There is no “season”.

Contact Information:

Chocolates Pacha

Avenida Machalilla S/N Junto al CDH

Puerto Lopez, Equador

Phone:  o5 3200323

Facebook: Pacha Puerto Lopez

About the Author:

Annie Coburn currently lives in Santiago, Chile and travels throughout South America. She created Fab Placez in 2010, but the name never really defined her target audience – mature travelers. In 2014, she changed the name to FAB Senior Travel, and with the help of some very talented people, redesigned the website. She publishes travel articles from other writers to provide diversity of locations to match the breadth of our travel interests.

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