Business Visit — Jan 12th
This trip isn’t just ALL fun and games here… We did go on some business visits about Chocolate that were super informative and interesting. We went to three different places: a more home entrenpenuer chocolate business, a chocolate exporting company & Tulicorp which sell chocolate to industry.
First we went to a guys house, Di Katy Chocolate, where he does the fermentation process of the chocolate indoors, in his house so when you first walked in you got smacked with the smell of chocolate. We tried 75% and 90% chocolate — it was surprisingly tasty. The trick with super dark chocolate is to actually let the piece sit in the cheek of your mouth and slowly melt, instead of chewing it. I think that is something any average dark chocolate eater should know!!
We learned that if the coco plants are near fruit then they pick up their flavor or acidity — kind of like certain fruits get like that. Also learned that the way you dry the chocolate determines on the quality of it. So this gentlemen, I forget his name unfortunately, had a whole process and indoor lab set up for his chocolate so he could control almost everything from plant to chocolate bar. I bought two bars from him cause my roommate LOVES dark chocolate and I needed some to reminance with after the trip!!
The second business we went to was Guangala Chocolate exporting company of coco. It was a business that has been there for 30 years which I think is saying A LOT with how underdeveloped this country is in some areas. At this company, we met up with a fellow CSU alumni — which I thought was SO SO rad — Rafaela, or Rafa. She graduated CSU with a wildlife biology and conservation degree and now works more on the fields of the coco farms that the export company uses — meaning she’s more hands on with the plants and talking to these farmers and making sure the plants are healthy.
We learned that once you break open a coco pod, the seeds start to ferment which is part of the chocolate process. When we first walked into this plant, it spelled funky. Our group then learned that the smell was the fermenting coco beans. Sometimes Rafa said, it smells like dirty feet, other times it smells like fresh bread. That day, it definitely was on the stinkier side. This company did their drying process a lot different. They had their beans out not he pavement drying with workers stepping on them and big polluted trucks driving around them. It seemed odd to me, especially after seeing the home chocolate guy and what Effy said about it too. It just didn’t seem clean — although the chocolate was in the middle of all of that.
Anyway, Rafa told us that this company was one of the biggest in Ecuador and that Japan is their biggest market. But the biggest consumer is the States — ha go figure. Then they also sell coco to Nutella. They are doing it right!!
We then met Jimmy who was the head expert of fermentation and coco tasting. He explained to us that you must kill the bean first to get the coco. The bean colors go from violet to brown. I actually was pretty astonished at how pink they looked with the pulp around them and then how beautifully purple they were on the inside too. Wild colors I would of never thought of for chocolate or coco. So you surround the bean with pulp that contains sugar and it kills the bean. From there it is stored in a bag for 3 days. The oxygen turns the bean from violet to brown making it taste less bitter.
I loved how this company treated their farmers and workers. Having videos for them to understand the process better and to learn what is healthy and not is very useful. They are trusting these people to grow and harvest these pods that its great to hear they are giving them the tools to succeed at it. Rafa also told us that they offer a nutritionist that comes in since Ecuadorians eat a lot of starches. They also have doctors at each farm and have things for the their kids to do as well. They don’t higher anyone that is under 18 which is a great strict policy to have.
We were lucky enough to meet the president of the company who was a German fellow that moved here with his dad who was an archaeologist. Once he graduated college he slowly found the coco market and has done that ever since. He gave us great advice to always take chances, especially the sooner the better because you’ll learn more and take more risks down the line. He also said to follow our dreams, live your dreams cause why not!!
This company was very diverse of the different people that worked there. The president was German, Rafa was Ecuadorian, we met another German worker, Jimmy was an Ecuadorian and then they had a girl from Denmark that was working there on internship. I liked that a lot. It showed we all can work together and bring different ideas to the table for a same purpose of making money and being a business. I still couldn’t get over the support and education this company gave to the coco farm people. It was really enlightening and awesome to hear how great their ethics where at the company.
We did have a moment to try some freshly pressed coco — three flavors. I couldn’t exactly taste the huge difference from them but they were bitter!! It was not sweet yet. You could taste the smallest taste, like a pear size or smaller and it would of been enough. I never learned or had no idea how much went into making chocolate.
Couldn’t resist putting these two goof balls in this blog — this is right before we stepped in to the Guangala plant. Tyler & Mark — gotta love em!!
The third place we went to for our business visit was Tulicorp SA which I believe Rafa’s company works with as well. This was more the next process from the fermented bean. This is the company that squeezes out the coco, adds sugar and makes amazing chocolate. We sat in a room with Manuel Velasquez before we toured the factory and he asked a question, if you had to sell chocolate, how would you do it or who would it be too? He went around the whole room asking people. We all weren’t creative or specific enough for the answer. We said things like, niche market, target market, trader joe’s or a market. Then he told us well what about hotels, restaurants, bakeries, that is where you first start selling your chocolate.
I thought it was cool how Manuel schooled us on that. We went for a tour and it was a different set up than the last. It also was the end of the day so a lot of it was cleaned up already and we were just looking more at the equipment then the process.
Manuel in the white.
At the end, we sat in the room one more time with Manuel and they gave us samples of their cookies — which were incredible. Light, fluffy, tasty and they had cinnamon one which is always my favorite flavor!! Manuel told us how his company is working closely with a university to further study the health benefits of pure chocolate. He was selling us the chocolate hard. He said that it 100% relaxing and can be a aphrodisiac. You can put it on your skin/body for it to feel soft, its relaxing he said!! Good to know.
Another thing he was trying and experimenting with is the use of coconut sugar instead of using cane sugar to sweeten the chocolate. His company seems to be on top of their market and the new things that are coming out in the science/health world. Even that diabetics will possibly be able to eat the 100% chocolate because there is absolutely no sugar in it — just straight coco. Cool stuff!
Everyone was so nice, at these visits, handing us business cards and offering guidance if needed it in the chocolate world. I felt welcomed and honored to have them open their businesses to us — we should send them thank you cards from us!!
Business in Ecuador seems a bit the same as in the States besides the worker boss relationship seems to be a lot more meaningful and caring. Where a lot of export companies don’t even care where the product is coming from as long as they get the product. And it really hit me how much Ecuador does export and how they are top in the world for couple of exports. Thinking now, I don’t even know what the States number one export is or what we are known for — like how Ecuador is roses and chocolate.
Things to think about.
- Eating lots of chocolate — this day was filled of taste tests and free goodies! YUM!
- Meeting alumni — I had no idea that the one business visit would be with a CSU alumni, super cool how the world can connect
- Learning the process of chocolate — its crazy that a lot of people don’t know the process of their food yet they consume daily.. I was one of those people with chocolate for sure!!
- I liked having the 3 different locations we went too — learned different things at different places
- HOT — I think the hottest day we had was standing in the sun for these visits, definitely was not prepared for that heat that day
- Not having any of their chocolate they gave us with me now — it was delicious, I would love to enjoy some — I think Natalie just wanted it to herself 😛
- I would love one of those cookies too right now!!!!!!!!!!!