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A laboratory that respects and admires Ecuadorian chocolate
For a world-class experience in fine chocolate, the place is, hands down, República del Cacao shop in the Historic City Center. Located on the corner of Venezuela and Chile Streets, just steps away from Plaza Grande, the place invites you to take a tour with your senses and find out how the cocoa bean is transformed into exquisite pieces of chocolate and pastries.
Once you set foot in República del Cacao, there is no turning back. The aroma captures you as if under hypnosis, and there is really nothing better than giving in to the temptation of chocolates, truffles, cakes, or more elaborate desserts like the ‘Sacha,’ a delicious 75% chocolate almond and hazelnut dessert, one of the several signature recipes that the shop has to offer.
While República del Cacao may be well known for enjoying a cup of coffee and offering delicious products, the experience at this location goes beyond that; here can become completely immersed in the world of chocolate and cocoa.
More than just a shop, this Historic City Center site includes the production center for all República del Cacao stores. It was conceived as a laboratory for fine chocolate and pastries, and is where a variety of products are created, even allowing you to take part in the processes.
Santiago Cueva, the pastry and confectionery chef, oversees production for all of the República del Cacao stores. This workshop, in addition to being a production center, is a teaching laboratory that generates new chocolate culinary ideas. Visitors include fine chocolate lovers like tourists and cooking school students, and the shop provides training for professional chefs. Recently, the nation’s president’s team of chefs attended a personalized workshop.
Tourists have a special opportunity to have a personal experience. The workshop includes a visit to the laboratory, where you can touch, smell, and taste exotic, natural ingredients. Santiago explains their origin and the possibilities of mixing each with chocolate. The chef clearly differentiates between real chocolate and chocolate substitutes. While the first is made of cocoa and sugar, the second is made of cocoa powder, sugar, and butter or margarine and other fats.
Chocolate as such has antioxidant and stimulant properties for the body. Chocolate substitutes, however, are less beneficial to your health, and excessive consumption can lead to cardiovascular disease. Santiago emphasizes that Ecuador has excellent quality cocoa, perfect for making the world’s very best fine chocolate.
The laboratory also offers chocolate tasting for people to understand the fermentation process, and to taste the differences between chocolates depending on their cocoa percentages. Your taste buds will learn to distinguish between bitter, fruity, or sweeter flavors.
After learning the theory, you move on to practice: time to make a dessert. With the chef’s support, you will elaborate creations that combine colors and fruity aromas with indulgent pastry ingredients like cream, butter, and chocolate. Guests transform into artists after learning the basics of pastry creation.
While the laboratory delicacies are baking or refrigerating, República del Cacao has options for you, including a visit to the museum or paging through Entrepreneur’s Corner Magazine. The museum is a perfect opportunity to learn about the origin and history of Ecuadorian cocoa, which in pre-Columbian times was known as the seed of gold. Here, you will find information on harvesting, fermentation, drying, toasting, and grinding. There are videos to watch with testimonies from the people who make up the República del Cacao team, all of whom are committed to preserving this national treasure.
Entrepreneur’s Corner pays homage to the small artisans and businesspersons who are dedicated to responsible production of different cocoa-based products, including candles, oils, liquors, soaps, alfajores, and even handicrafts.
When the desserts are ready to be enjoyed, participants get feedback on their efforts from Chef Santiago. Those who want to continue the practice at home can purchase products from the home baking line, which comes with recipes included.
To make a memorable visit to the República del Cacao shop, be sure to take your time. Enjoy every corner and live the full experience. The complete tour can take a few hours, but you can also make a shorter visit to see the laboratory, museum, and store. One thing is for sure: once you are inside, you will gain new respect for Ecuadorian chocolate.