This post is being released out of chronological order. I will report on what happened in Peru and Bolivia in May and early June soon. Thanks for your patience.
(Events from mid June 2012)
I decided to treat myself(as if traveling around the world wasn’t a treat enough)by partaking in a chocolate tour at the end of our trip. The tour was put on by Ecole Chocolat (http://www.ecolechocolat.com) which is an online school based in Vancouver that offers classes in chocolate making, chocolate manufacturing and chocolate tasting. I am not a graduate, but I do use their website as a resource for finding ingredients and equipment. I sometimes fantasize about participating in one of their Master Classes which bring students together to the kitchens of highly acclaimed chocolate companies such as Valrhona or Felchlin in order to hone their chocolate making skills.
On perusing their website, I discovered that there was a plantation and factory tour scheduled in Ecuador at the end of June. Not only did it fit exactly with the dates that we planned to be there, but it was lead by my chocolate hero, Steve DeVries!
Steve Devries is my favorite bean to bar chocolate maker in the United States. His chocolate is a revelation. He coaxes out amazing flavors and texture without the use of vanilla, cocoa butter or too much sugar. During the tour, I discovered that this is a testament to his knowledge of cocoa processing techniques and a love for antique chocolate making equipment, which he insists makes much better chocolate. For those interested, his chocolate will soon be available online only which he ships from his shop in Denver, Colorado (http://www.devrieschocolate.com).
To begin the tour, our group met in the lobby of Hotel Quito in Ecuador, which would be our hub for the week. The plan was to take side trips to 3 different regions in Ecuador and then reconvene back in Quito. There were 12 of us including Ecole Chocolat founder, Pam Williams and her husband, Daryll, and on this first evening we shared dinner and stories of chocolate at a nearby restaurant. It was the only time I would be away from my family during the entire 10 month trip and after meeting my new travel companions and fellow chocolate enthusiasts, I was excited to do my my own thing for a week.
The photos below are of some of the participants!