Part 1 of my travels to Ecuador
Hello, Zimtees! Or should I say, “Hola”. =)
I am in Ecuador- if you’ve been following the FB page at all, you already know that! I arrived last Tuesday (I think) and it has been pretty non-stop up until this very point.
Like with everything Zimt does, I play a pretty big role. It is not the easiest thing to take on, being responsible for food that is going to thousands of people (a little daunting), but I want to do the best job I can, at every step.
So, when the Government of Ecuador commissioned me to head on over to their country for a business matchmaking event, to check out all the opportunities available for Zimt, I could not resist. What an opportunity! I have never been to Ecuador. Up until yesterday, I had never been to a cacao farm. I have never met the farmers to whom I owe so, so much (as do you- FYI!). And I wanted to change this, because to be quite honest, I felt far too uninformed and a little fake.
Especially in the “natural food” industry, we tend to get this impression that the founders of the business have seen the whole operation, from start to finish.
Most manufacturing businesses, businesses that make a product, go through a particular route to get this product made: mostly, finding contacts to provide materials and then finding someone to make the final product from these materials (or, if their product allows for it, the someone making the final product will already have the materials). This is what I have done- although I get Zimt Angels to make a lot of the product, and to package it, and I sure do scoop macaroons myself (my wrists still hurt!). But to find the cacao- that is another story.
This is usually how it goes. I bet if you ask an owner of a company with a product line like Zimt’s, 9/10 times, they would not have seen the farms where their raw materials come from. And that’s ok- if it is good quality, if it meets standards, and if people are happy with it, that’s the end goal- achieved!
And this could have happened for Zimt, had I not come to Ecuador. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see it, feel it, taste it, harvest it, the whole shebang. Thank the farmers, give them some Zimt, be as hands-on as possible.
That’s what I’m doing now. I don’t want to just buy materials from someone and formulate something, even if it is tasty. I want to be really involved and make sure that everything is done according to my paranoid expectations. I want you all to have the best chocolate ever- because that is what you are paying for.
So, I have visited one farm so far – here’s some proof!
Was a hot, hot day. And don’t even get me started about the mosquitos. Neither the heat, nor the insects, though, could put any sort of damper on this experience! What an incredible gift- to be able to actually harvest cacao and see how the whole farming process works. I also got to see where the beans are picked through (by hand), fermented, and sun-dried. Nice nice nice. But we weren’t allowed to take pictures of that part, unfortunately. I think there is some “proprietary information” that would be best left unphotographed, so that they can maintain their own unique processes and creative edge. But in any case, I can tell you that, cross my heart, all seemed very good, clean, and organized. And also innovative. Also- detailed.
Then, it was off to a full processing facility. I wish I could say it was a cute little 100% organic, bamboo walled place but it was definitely not this. It is a huge factory where they process millions of pounds of cocoa beans each year- some organic, some not, some fair trade, some not. I think all from Ecuador, though. Anyway, another pristine place, and the farm I visited has many of the beans processed here.
Alright back on track tomorrow I will visit the farm from which I currently source my cacao (the majority of). You may have tasted a difference between the bars that were released last summer and the bars that were released earlier this year. I personally prefer the summer bars, by a long shot, and will work to make sure I have a reliable supply of cacao to get back to that flavour I love (it is really, really, really good).
So, there we have it. A little update
Hope life is going well- I’m enjoying my time here but can’t wait to come home!