REPÚBLICA DEL CACAO, IN THE HEART OF QUITO´S COLONIAL DOWNTOWN * Visit República del Cacao´s website by clicking on the logo Ecuador is blessed by the perfect climate to grow fine cocoa. From 1880 to 1920, Ecuador supplied between 50% and 75% of the world´s demand for fine cocoa. This was a key period for the cocoa business and, in parallel, a time of great economic prosperity. However, due to agricultural and market problems, both the plantings and the demand for fine cocoa dropped substantially. Only several decades later did it regain importance thanks to chocolate´s new worldwide popularity. Around 85% of the global output of this variety, also known as Pepa de Oro (golden seed), comes from Latin America. It has been gaining acclaim in all markets because its taste, aroma and quality are exceptional. Today, República del Cacao is the leading brand in the chocolate market and has successfully sold chocolate bars, chocolate covered pastries, hot chocolate and other products for over ten years. The República de Cacao team shares a common interest: to preserve fine cocoa at its point of origin. At this time, Ecuador not only intends to become a world leader in cocoa production, but it also aspires to take measured steps until it becomes a “chocolate country”. To accomplish this objective, República del Cacao has established close and productive ties with farmers, cocoa dealers and processors, entrepreneurs, chefs and renowned global chocolatiers so that, in a joint effort, top quality products can be presented to the world. República del Cacao´s vision is based mainly on cooperation and inclusion but, additionally, it supports more than two thousand fine cocoa small farmers. The goal is to get these farmers to be able to plant, process and sell their fine cocoa in an optimal fashion, such that the sustainability of the production and processing of these products can be ensured, while they systematically gain better positioning in the world. One of the strategies employed to make this project a reality was to open a Cocoa Workshop where the best chocolate is made from pure fine cocoa, plus a whole gamut of confectionary creations such as cakes, biscuits, mousse, candies, pastas, among others. At the same time, the Workshop encourages new culinary talents so they can become entrepreneurs, a task headed by Santiago Cueva, the brand´s chef. Thanks to this project, an endless series of sweets with a touch of Ecuador have been prepared using fine cocoa. Chocolates filled with colada morada (a traditional Ecuadorian beverage prepared with black corn flour and fruits such as pineapple, blackberries, strawberries), canelazo (traditional spiced alcoholic hot drink), uvilla (Cape gooseberry or groundcherry) and coconut. Chocolates made with cocoa grains and tocte (Andean walnut). Tasting these creations is an ocassion as refined as a wine tasting and a delight to the most demanding palates. The Cocoa Workshop has become the perfect place to savor chocolate in unique and sophisticated concoctions. Another program inspired by and focused on the mission to preserve fine cocoa in Ecuador is the Entrepreneur´s Corner which provides technical support and business advice to budding innovative entrepreneurs. Several entrepreneurs have already signed up for this adventure, where each entrepreneur contributes with unique products and adds more weight to the effort of preserving fine cocoa at its point of origin. Paul Jáuregui, a well known Ecuadorean artist, draws graphic designs inspired by the “golden seed”. Natalia Espinosa adds an artistic touch with her handmade pottery. Eduardo Intriago belongs to a family business called Luz y Aromas that makes artisan candles, with exclusive designs and a variety of scents, which are sold at the Entrepreneur´s Corner. Also, Ana Isabel and María Ruth Moreno supply their fine artisan soaps made by a natural process based on cocoa butter and essential oils, perfect for skin care. Besides these products, there are delicious chocolate marmalades prepared by Daniel Durán, a gastronomy student specialized in confectionary and chocolates. Maluchi Vivar and Benjamín Passini, with their La Distribuzione brand, offer irresistible creations such as cocoa spreads mixed with a variety of ingredients, a true delight. And, if this were not enough, a fusion of the traditional Río de la Plata alfajor (two or more cookies bound by a sweet filling and generally dipped in chocolate, glaze or powdered sugar) with the best Ecuadorean chocolate is supplied by four friends, two Ecuadoreans, one Argentine and one from Panama, under the Che Alfajor brand. The new República del Cacao store located in the heart of Quito´s colonial downtown offers all these marvelous products and invites tourists to share the mystical experience of chocolate tasting in multiple presentations. Undoubtedly, these are extraordinary moments, shared in a delightful ambiance to which all of us yearn to return once again.