While in Mindo for ziplining and canyoning, we stopped by El Quetzal to get a tour of the Mindo Chocolate Factory.
Jose, the owner of El Quetzal, was kind enough to give us a tour.
He spent 20 years living in Ann Arbor, Michigan so his English is excellent and his chocolate is available in the states.
We started with the cacao bean, the only part of the Mindo chocolate process that isn’t grown on site.
At 4,000+ feet above sea level, Mindo is at too high an elevation to grow cacao so Jose buys their cacao from a local farm about 100 miles away at an elevation about 100ft lower. Jose explained that he’s part of a small but growing sector of the artesian chocolate business that uses single-origin cacao for a concentration of flavor.
The beans are fermented
And air dried
Before being skinned, roasted and broken into pieces. The next process can separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder or can heat, grind and temper the beans into a paste to which they’ll add sugar (which they process themselves from sugar cane).
It’s a complex process with a lot of steps and the chocolate could be ruined at any given step.
We sat down with some cacao paste and a lot of add ins like raw sugar, ginger syrup, chocolate honey and aji chilis to make our own chocolate.
Ginger and chocolate is a surprisingly good combination and the aji chili is the perfect kick of heat. Jose says they’ll start offering Chocolate Honey sometime this year, a different kind of cacao process that creates a sort of chocolate butter that would be good on toast. Had it been available right then, I’d have bought some because I’ve never tasted anything like it.
The brownie we got at the end was one of the best I’d ever had.
Even if you don’t have time to tour the whole factory, stop in for lunch and a brownie. And then buy some chocolate to go!