The world’s most expensive chocolate, exquisite Polish vodka, world-class craft beer… perhaps not products that you would expect to find in Ecuador, yet the Andean nation is making a name for itself with these very things. And each one comes with larger-than-life personalities to match; extraordinary people, both local and foreign, who have dedicated their lives to seeking perfect flavors.
Revive your sense of taste and your passion for life, experiencing Quito for foodies in encounters that go beyond the mouthful, reaching far into the story behind it. You could explore a 1,500-acre cacao farm on the coast, test the purest vodka with a distiller of the finest pedigree, and relax with beers and burgers at a microbrewery among Quito’s coolest kids. Read on to discover why these brands should form part of your Ecuador vacation.
So pure, so delicate, so finessed is this chocolate that it must be tasted with tweezers so that oils on your hands don’t contaminate it – Ecuador for foodies is a scientific place! And you don’t have to provide your own instrument: this bar comes with its own wooden tweezers, in a handcrafted wooden box and a 116-page booklet detailing the production and a tasting guide.
This is To’ak, the Ecuadorian brand that, at $173 an ounce, Forbes names “the world’s most expensive chocolate.” Made from the world’s best organic cacao from the 1,500-acre Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve in the coastal region of Manabi, To’ak is the creation of Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer, an American and an Austrian who have spent the last four years mastering the art of chocolate making – much of it camped out in the rainforest, or sleeping in their refinery. What makes their chocolate so fine (and the price tag so eye-watering) is the fair trade, artisan production techniques: the company works with just 14 cacao farmers who meticulously handpick each bean before the chocolate is aged in 50-year old cognac or elm casks for 18 months and subjected to rigorous quality tests. Much like the fine wine or whiskey that the process imitates, the end result of To’ak is a complex, subtle taste that makes chocolate seem like an art form.
If you’re in Quito before or after your Galapagos vacation, come along to a To’ak chocolate tasting in the Galapagos Safari Camp offices (tweezers and all), or, for the immersive Ecuador for foodies chocolate experience, you can visit the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve in Manabi and see the paradise where this heavenly chocolate is born.
See more: To’ak Exotic Chocolate
It’s not hard to imagine a tasting of Severyn Vodka getting somewhat out of hand. With the 40% proof liquor that slips down all too easily, goaded on by the brand’s vivacious Polish founder Krzysztof Światopełk-Czetwertyński, a sampling in Quito for foodies can spiral into a party before you can say, “Twoje zdrowie!” (That’s “Cheers!” in Polish).
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that vodka is in Światopełk-Czetwertyński’s blood: his great-great-grandfather, Seweryn, owned a distillery from 1822 in the Polish town of Suchowola, which stayed in the family until the end of World World II. Światopełk-Czetwertyński himself began making his own vodka some 30 years ago, and when he moved to Ecuador three years ago, he began distilling – first in his garage and then in real micro-distillery in Pifo in northeast Quito, with handsome copper tanks and a staff of two.
The Pole’s secret (aside from the abundance of potatoes in Ecuador – each 750ml bottle uses about 8-10 kilos of them) is his grain-to-glass philosophy: no chemicals, no other ingredients, just pure vodka – “the old fashioned way.” The same goes for his blackberry vodka – all it contains is the alcohol and the fruit, left to infuse for two months before it’s filtered. For the uninitiated, Światopełk-Czetwertyński explains that there are several things to note when tasting vodka. First, the color: “It should be clearer than a glass of water,” he says. Next is the smell, which should be neutral; as should the first taste. It’s only with the aftertaste that you should sense aromas of potatoes and the distinctive vodka flavor. As warming as its creator, Severyn Vodka is an utterly unique Polish touch in the Andes and a tour of the distillery will open your eyes to a new world of creative possibility, an unmissable stop of a tour of Quito for foodies.
Like many a great artisan before him, Javier Salas began his business as a hobby, brewing beer at home from 2010. By all accounts, his beer was extremely good. Salas wasn’t alone in his pastime – a craft beer boom was sweeping Quito for foodies and, alongside a few other pioneers, he rode the wave to build his own microbrewery, launching the SABAI Chaquiñán Indian Pale Ale in 2014. Since then, the craft beer wave has turned into a tsunami, becoming a mainstay of quiteño culture. And it’s not just the beer: the microbrewery, has become an institution in itself, where stylish young Ecuadorians come to hang out, eat burgers and drink some of the best beers in the city, choosing from the five options that Sabai now has. Located a few steps from the Galapagos Safari Camp offices, the microbrewery shares another connection with archipelago – one of its partners, Sebastian Cruz, was born on the islands, his mother one of the original pioneers of the 20th century. This young, eco-minded brewery uses natural processes and emphasizes fair trade and employment. For beer aficionados discovering Quito for foodies, the Ecuadorian craft scene is well worth looking into, and the microbrewery is a great place to start.
All of our trips our tailored and we can add tastings and visits to your itinerary. Ask us for more details if you want to discover Ecuador for foodies!