Ecuador the trip of a lifetime, by Chef John Martínez

When I received the invitation to attend the República del Cacao trip I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to attend. But thank God that it worked out! Because it was truly the trip of a lifetime. The travel was made so easy by the team and no detail of it was missed. We arrived in Guayaquil and had a nice rest before having dinner with our amazing tour guides and hosts for the trip.

Our first day of adventure begun early in the morning, on our way to Vinces to see the cacao plantations and collection center. It was such an amazing experience to see the cacao trees and the farmers who work so hard to harvest and cultivate the cacao.  Something that you take for granted being a pastry chef is where and how the chocolate you are using everyday is made.  Seeing this process first hand was such an eye opening experience and something I will never forget.

Our second day was at the most magical mountain top I have ever seen. Not only was "the Miracle of Panela" the main attraction but so was the breathtaking views from all around us. The flowering trees, the mountain tops, the amazing little casita where we had our lunch was a place you dream of. Pacto was my favorite part of the trip, it was just stunningly beautiful. The panela that was freshly made was the most cleanest natural sugar I have ever tasted.

On our third day we traveled to the Andes to Turucucho, this experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for the group. We were so high up in the mountains you really appreciate how amazing mother earth is. Not only was the scenery magical but so were the ladies who cultivate the milk. These ladies are the most hardworking people you will ever meet and the most humblest. 

Our last day of this trip was our tour of the chocolate factory. What a fun experience to see everything come full circle to produce the chocolate I use in my kitchen. Of course the tasting portion of the chocolate factory tour was everyone’s favorite part.

For me the whole experience was something I will never forget, from all the people who put the trip together to everyone who was with us in Ecuador on the buses traveling with us to all the locations.  As a group we laughed and cried together with joy of everything we experienced.  The knowledge I gained form this trip allows me to better explain my craft to customers and fellow coworkers.  And thanks to all the photos I took along the way, my team felt that they were there with me. If anyone had the chance to do this trip I would definitely say it’s a trip of a lifetime.