If I had to call only one nation representing absolute pride for its cacao producing tradition in the world of fine chocolate, that would undoubtedly be Ecuador.
The reason for this ardor is a desire for redemption from the traumatic event of the witches’ broom disease in the 1920s, when most of the original Nacional cacao (known as the ‘Pepa de Oro‘ prestige) got lost and, with that, both the local economy and exporting activities swiftly collapsed.
Thanks to the surgical work of INIAP (Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias de Ecuador) conducted in the successive years to the devastating outbreak, new cocoa hybrids more resistant to diseases were developed. Although the authentic aromatic profile of the Nacional cacao came out ‘diluted,’ Ecuadorian producers have managed to diversify the cocoa market successfully in the changed situation, reinstating quality as their trademark as wells as their most flexible asset to meet the different needs of today’s customer.
Costa Esmeraldas, a single estate cacao farm located in northern Ecuador, is one of these realities, capitalizing on the diversity of a mix of three Complejo Nacional clones.
The flavors tasted in this 85% chocolate bar by Mānoa Chocolate Hawaii recall a chocolate fudge, variegated with toasted walnuts, creme caramel, and dried apricots.
Mānoa was the first chocolate maker to work with Costa Esmeraldas cacao in 2017, after that Daniel O’Doherty of Cacao Services helped redesign the whole post-harvest handling facility and process, establishing a one-of-kind cacao sourcing reality over a two-year-long project. Now, this cacao origin is part of the repertoire of the highest-end American chocolate makers.
The quality and consistency of these cacao beans are so even that a chocolate maker working with them couldn’t fail to craft a chocolate product extraordinarily multifaceted but perfectly balanced in its flavor profile.