We welcome guest poster Barbara Wilson who will tantalize your taste buds with a delectable article on chocolate!

Barbara Wilson is the founder and owner of Mindo Chocolate and El Quetzal de Mindo in Mindo, Ecuador. She has a Master’s in Public Health and previously worked as a Health Educator for the University of Michigan in her hometown, Ann Arbor, Michigan. She moved to Mindo in 2008 and opened a small cafe but wanted high-quality chocolate for brownies for the cafe.  That began the amazing adventure of learning about and later teaching people about chocolate. She designed a chocolate tour in 2010 and now the tour has grown quite a bit. 12,570 people came to El Quetzal for chocolate tours last year.

Mindo, Ecuador, known for its incredible biodiversity and a large number of bird species, is also now known for fine-flavour Chocolate. Mindo is nestled in the foothills of the Andes just 20 miles, as the crow flies, from Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

One of the natives.  Photo credit Julia Patiño, a world-class bird guide in Mindo, Ecuador.

 

But the scenic and curvy road to Mindo adds up to a two-hour bus ride passing largely through the Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest Reserve, a protected National Cloud Forest. When you arrive in the tiny town of Mindo (population 3,000), you will usually find a sleepy town unless it is a holiday or weekend where it becomes loaded with tourists.  Mindo’s popularity hinges on its many waterfalls, butterfly gardens, world-class birding and world-class bird guides,  plus more recently a host of “tourism” activities including tubing, zip lining, and canyoning.

 

Beans chocolate at El Quetzal Mindo Chocolate Tour

 

Mindo was recently designated the beginning of the Ruta de Cacao by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism where people can learn about Ecuador’s Native variety of cacao, Nacional. Ecuador is considered to be the source of the best and oldest variety of fine-flavour heirloom cocoa beans in the world and now known to be also the birthplace of chocolate.  Cocoa originated in the Amazon basin in Ecuador and spread to the rest of the world from there. 5,450-year-old pottery discovered in a burial ground in Mayo-Chinchipe in Southern Ecuador which brought to light that Chocolate was not only consumed but most likely also cultivated in Ecuador that many years ago, replacing the previous thinking that Central America was the birthplace of chocolate.

 

Cocoa chocolate beans; before and after

 

Small-batch, high percentage, dark chocolate is gaining popularity worldwide, not only for the health benefits but for the desire to eat whole, real foods. Chocolate is considered healthy, containing more antioxidants than any other food. Most people are moving past the idea that chocolate is not healthy but that is only when it is combined with a lot of sugar and milk and the cocoa is in small percentages.

 

El Quetzal artesan chocolate tours

 

For Chocolate tours in Mindo visit El Quetzal de Mindo (http://elquetzaldemindo.com) in Mindo, Ecuador.

 

Chocolate tour Mindo, Ecuador

 

The tiny cafe has grown into a full-service restaurant that seats 120 people and serves chocolate and coffee inspired dishes. To purchase chocolate online in the US visit Mindo Chocolate Makers at (http://mindochocolate.com)

Mindo Chocolate Makers