FROM beans TO brilliant by Maggie Louise Confections

This past September, I journeyed to Ecuador, the “cradle of cacao,”for a first-hand look at how our chocolate is produced. I traveled as the guest of one of our partners– República del Cacao, a Latin American chocolate company dedicated to the sustainable production of fine cacao at its source. República del Cacao works directly with local producers of milk, sugar and cacao to strengthen traceability and to promote the preservation of traditional techniques. With this background in mind, I was excited to go behind the scenes and into the heart of this process. Here is a glimpse of my adventure!

Sunday, September 16 // Guayaquil, Ecuador

Long day of travel to the largest city in Ecuador. Tomorrow, the fun begins!

Monday, September 17 // Vinces, Ecuador

An early morning drive from the city to the jungle took us through rice paddies, mango tree farms, banana plantations and finally, to the cacao. Trading a bus for a scooter, we journeyed into the thick of a farm. The farmer took us through the
trees on foot and as we explored, it was clear how much pride he and his family take in their work. When cacao pods are ready to be harvested, farmers cut them down and crack them open. They scoop out the seeds and deliver them to a nearby collection center in Vinces. The precious beans are fermented, then spread out in the sun and raked hourly.

Tuesday, September 18 // Turucucho, Ecuador

Before sunrise, we drove into the mountains to a small dairy farming community named Turucucho. I got to milk a cow for a brief second until she ran away from me, clearly disinterested in working with a stranger. We watched families deliver milk to the collection center, and drank hot tea as the morning chill turned into mid-day sunshine. I even had a sip of raw milk!

Wednesday, September 19 // Pacto Panela, Ecuador

A gorgeous early morning drive took us high into the Andes to observe the creation of unrefined organic sugar. From sugar cane harvesting to processing, this work is handson and labor-intesive. For a few minutes I swung a machete, chopping down sugar cane and realizing very quickly that this is the world’s best workout. The dedication of the farmers shows in the final product, which is included in the 65% dark chocolate that we use in our Austin kitchen.

Thursday, September 20 // Quito, Ecuador

We visited the República del Cacao factory in Quito. We watched as the cacao beans were crushed and then mixed with milk and sugar. These ingredients, so lovingly tended and carefully sourced, soon transformed into the smooth, flavorful chocolate decadence that we all know and love.

Friday, September 21 // Austin, Texas

Red-eye from Quito > Austin. I’m back in Texas, bearing gifts for my kids, stories to share and chocolate for the team at Maggie Louise! Did this whirlwind trip even happen?

Thank you Maggie for this amazing Travel Journal.

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