Ecuador: 70% cocoa, 100% boost
The group of women running the PuraVida Chocolates initiative, near Block 57, has received new equipment to expand their hand-crafted production of the so-called food of the gods.
Who can resist the mouth-watering aroma of chocolate, its unctuous texture melting instantly and smoothly on the tongue in a rich flood of flavor? Known as the food of the gods, or Theobroma cacao, its origins lie far back in ancient American civilizations, and today it’s one of the most emblematic fruits of the equatorial region, where the cacao tree is native. PuraVida Chocolates is an initiative that was born deep in the plantations lying near Block 57, in the Pacayacu parish, devised by a group of local women who produce exquisite hand-crafted chocolate concoctions using time-honored recipes and skills.
Their wares include bars of up to 95% pure dark chocolate, others containing nuts and sweetened with stevia, as well as homemade filled chocolates, all part of the range of products currently sold to the community around the bus terminal and at the Lago Agrio Country Fair. PuraVida Chocolates began as a small group of some eight women who were the eldest in their community and met at the Juan Montalvo Civil Association. Today, the group has grown to number 26 women, many of whom are breadwinners working in this enterprise, confident in its prospects for progress.
"They buy the cocoa pods from the local plantations and dry them before embarking on the transformation process to turn the beans into chocolate. They use the recipes of one of women organizing the team, she’s the oldest, and they’ve developed and improved these over time after taking some courses," explained Darwin Vega, CORE Specialist in Ecuador to Tecpetrol Today.
"They first contacted us through the association and told us that they couldn’t keep up with production demands as they were missing some equipment. That's when we decided to help them by purchasing equipment," he added. And so it was that Tecpetrol donated an industrial mixer and blender, a dehydrator, an oven and a refrigerator, plus a stainless steel table and even a showcase to display the wares, all in support of this undertaking.
With high-quality natural products, outstanding craftsmanship and respect for the principles of fair trade and the health of the local ecosystem, PuraVida can look forward to a great reception even in the most sophisticated markets, explains Vega, adding that "they’re really determined to grow with this project."
Recently, PuraVida has begun to look further afield, making trips to the capital city of Quito where they took part in the Ecuadorian Chocolate, Cacao & Coffee Fair, one of the leading gourmet fairs dedicated to the exhibition and sale of luxury products designed to enthrall the senses. The delicate flavors produced by this unique undertaking are beginning to conquer new palates all the way from the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. "I tried it and it's that wonderfully bitter-edged chocolate... My family is delighted about this,” confides Darwin Vega, adding that, “Now I'm at the site and they've already asked me to pop in to take back some more for them!" Truly irresistible!