I put together this brief video a few weeks ago about our other business, The Cocoa Pod. We had no idea this item would be such a hit and just by chance itÂ´s really begun to garner interest. We take fresh cocoa pods (aka cacao pods), have them sun-dried and carefully cared for, and finally gently rubbed and polished. They are a beautiful item and can be used in chocolate shops, homes, coffee shops, etc.
Over fifteen years ago I made the trip to the SaquisilĂ market a few hours south of Quito. I didntÂ´really know what I was looking for or what I was going to buy when I got there. But like so many places you go to explore and come back with something you didnÂ´t expect to own, or maybe didnÂ´t even know existed, I came pack with several hand-carved wooden masks used in traditional festivals held by EcuadorÂ´s native peoples. The masks are often used in dances that take place in small towns to celebrate certain seasonal and/or quasi-religious events. The men who wear them have often been drinking. And things sometimes get rough, very rough, even deadly. None of this ever occurred to me when I bought the masks. Nor am I strong believer in the hocus-pocus idea that maybe the masks had some kind of bad energy. So the masks have been hanging in our house, on the walls, for the last 14 years, until we moved just this February.
The idea of getting rid of them came from our friend Margara Anhalzer, the owner of one of Quito’s very high-end craft shops. Her store, called Olga Fisch, the name of the Hungarian immigrant who started the store several decades ago, carries exclusive Ecuadorian handicrafts from all over the country. Somehow, in one of our stops over there to leave off some of our chocolate products which she sells, the topic of the masks came up and she was the one who suggested they might have bad energy and we should maybe consider getting rid of them. I think we had been discussing how the business was struggling and we still weren’t sure we were going to make it.
Anyway, we gave a mask to each of the movers who helped us. I hope they didn’t really have any bad energy and that all these helpful fellows are still doing just fine. Coincidentally, though, the business is doing a lot better.
Through simple word of mouth and perhaps just coincidence, people have started to look for us more than ever. A new client, another owner of an artisan crafts store in Quito’s old city, surfaced in February and began buying chocolates, several hundred a week, and has been coming back regularly ever since. From Guayaquil, a woman who owns a pastry shop Â found us on the internet, and we started business with her a little over a month ago. These are good solid wholesale accounts.
And finally, as I mentioned some time ago, our private client which owns a gourmet chocolate brand sold here in Ecuador and overseas, for whom we make filled chocolates, is having fairly brisk sales at the Duty Free Shop in the Quito Airport, and while not great sales in the Plaza Foch, it’s still money in the bank. For those of you still curious to know who it is, I’ll give you a few hints…the first part of their name starts with the spanish word for Republic-as in Banana Republic-but ends in the spanish word for Cocoa, as in Cacao.
Just over two weeks ago we had a visit with the members of the Go Now Be Free Tour. Jody Treter, the guide, wrote about it here. Jody and I met up through a visit over a year ago to our shop by Mimi Wheeler, of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Michigan. Mimi had come down to visit Ecuador and meet with Miriam, the recipient of GoBe’s first microloan. I also helped Mimi arrange a visit to the plantations belonging to my friend, and connoisseur/grower of some of Ecuador’s finest Nacional cocoa beans.
The group came over to the workshop in the morning, and I gave them a brief but thorough introduction to cacao in Ecuador, discussing most of what you’ve read here on this blog. We got into CCN-51, Nacional, and other arcane topics surrounding Ecuadorian chocolate.
In the afternoon, I took them over to Fundacion y Desarrollo, a major NGO here in Ecuador involved in Fair Trade Certification as well as promoting “Super” cacao. I hadn’t really known they were so involved in this project, but learned a great deal about it.
Two North American acquaintances of mine have been the pioneers in the “super cacao” project. They began by selecting the very best cacao trees they could-by best I mean those that are most disease resistant and with the highest yields. The project started through the observation that in any area where cacao is grown widely, there always seem to be a few trees, out of many, that produce more cacao than usual and also are more disease resistant. These two men began by propagating these high yield trees and planing them. It turns out that they are getting absolutely incredible yields in the very first years.
Conservacion y Desarrollo has been working with farmers throughout the country to not only gather and propagate seedlings from “super cacao” trees, but to then take the trees and study their genotypes closely. Instead of a costly, multi-year project whereby scientists could be sent into the field to search out and study the trees, C&D has recruited thousands of farmers to select their best trees, and then turn them over to be studied and analyzed. The ultimate aim of the project, through identifying and propagating high-yielding cacao trees, is to combat poverty by helping farmers increase their income and produce better cacao, and ultimately, better chocolate.
Believe it or not Iâ€™ve topped myself! This is the single biggest Twitter giveaway Iâ€™ve ever done! So prepare yourself for some free goodies!
Would you like a free box of our delectable, delightful chocolate confections direct from Ecuador?
I assume that youâ€™re interested so hereâ€™s how to win.
First, go to Twitter and if you donâ€™t already have an account there, set one up. Itâ€™s free. Then follow me â€“Chocolatecuador. Go to http://www.twitter.com/ChocolatEcuador and click on the Follow button that appears under my profile.
Then, and this is the last step, simply write out the following tweetâ€¦
Win a free 21 piece box of Aequare Fine Chocolates. Pls RT. DetailsÂ here: http://bit.ly/7AZtnn
Thatâ€™s it. Just follow me on Twitter. http://www.twitter.com/ChocolatEcuador) Send out that Tweet â€“ and youâ€™re done.
But this is important â€“ only do this ONE TIME! It does not in any way improve your odds if you Tweet this message more than once. If you do send it more than once, youâ€™ll just make your followers mad and you wonâ€™t increase your odds.
Hereâ€™s some of the fine print â€“ PLEASE READ IT CAREFULLY.
If you are already following me on Twitter â€“ you donâ€™t need to un-follow and then re-follow.
You must be at least 18 years old to win. All taxes are the responsibility of the winner. The decision of the judges is final. The winner will be announced on Twitter.com December 18, 2009, sometime before Midnight.
The contest is open to anyone in the continental US. We will pay shipping and handling for the item. We must have at least 100 new followers by December 18 to complete the giveaway-any less than 100 and no winner will be announced. So get Tweeting!
Another chocolate website has added us to their lineup, along the lines of other admirable and well-known brands such as Amedei, Madecasse, and Chocolove. You can find them at http://www.newleafchocolates.com/Aequare_c4.htm.