Travel to Ecuador #13
Hello my fellow chocolate lovers,
I am Takanori Chiwata, the chocolate engineer of COCONAMA CHOCOLATE.
From now on I would like to talk about the Ecuador trip I had the chance to take the other day. I want to make these posts like my travel journal, so excuse my broken English!
This time is the topic from my wife Kayoko.
During this business trip, we had the chance to have our very first workshop in another country. With all the appreciation to Universidad de las Americas Gastronomia for having us over, I would like to share some of the footage.
UDLA is a four-year culinary school located in Quito. They even have a restaurant-like designed classroom where you can learn all about hospitality. It is far from what we imagined as a Latin American University. The campus is flawlessly secured;you’ll need to tap this special card at the entrance in order to get in the campus. Pretty cool right?
On this trip, we held our very first workshop for “nama-chocolate”, which we’ve never done in Canada or Japan. We had a request from the school president, Felipe, who was very interested in our colourful chocolate, to hold a workshop especially for these vivid chocolates.
We wanted to use their local ingredients for this very special occasion, so we visited the campus 2 days beforehand in order to check the ingredients and the classroom. We didn’t really expect to see so many students on a Saturday. Some students were baking crazy amounts of opera cakes, some were baking cookies, and apparently they had an exam for French cuisine that afternoon, which they invite their parents to treat their delicious dishes. I must say, they all looked very busy.
Despite how occupied they were, they welcomed us to check on the ingredients for the workshop. Our assistant, Titi, was a beautiful and efficient fellow. She was such a great assistant it was hard to tell who was the real instructor there.
There weren’t any major problem with our chocolate. Although, they did not have too much option with the white chocolate. It had a strong milky flavour, but that wasn’t too big of a deal.
Our real focus was the ingredients that we combine with the white chocolate, which decides the flavour of the nama chocolate!
The students really wanted to see some exotic ingredients, so we prepared some for them. Here are what we prepared and their thoughts on it:
Pickled sakura (cherry blossom): Decently good
Japanese plum paste: It tastes similar to tamarind
Sansho pepper: Never tasted anything like this. Strong in citrus-like flavour
Wasabi: Didn’t have to bother trying it
Japanese roasted tea: Smells very nice. Even better fragrance than matcha
Japanese chili powder: Not any particular reaction for this one
We really wanted to make wasabi flavoured one. Roasted tea as well. We really just wanted to make everything… Well, we’ve decided to see what they all wanted to try at the workshop!
So there it is, the introduction to the ingredients we planned to used.
Here are some of the Ecuadorian fruits which their students brought up:
Passion fruits: It tasted delicious, but the texture is quite grainy, so it was kind of hard to use a fresh one… Not very interesting too
Mango: Not really interesting as well, but it is one of Coconama’s popular flavours so might as well
Tuna: Not the fish one, but a fruit of cactus. We’ve never seen this guy before! It didn’t have any tartness or sweetness, and it looked like… a dragon fruit? It varied in colours, from orange to green. We were interested in this one, but it didn’t have any distinct flavour to it, so maybe some other time
Guava: Did you all know that fresh guava has a vivid pink colour? The colour really caught our attention, and the texture was peach-like. If we added a bit of tartness to it, we definitely would be able to bring out its flavour.
In the end, we’ve decided to make these two: mango & chili and guava & sansho pepper.
For the mango & chili, we decided to combine their mango and the Japanese chili we’ve brought over. Guava & sansho pepper was quite a challenge, but we knew the citrusy fragrance will go well with guava.
That day, we had the students to make matcha nama chocolate in order to get used to the procedure,and proportion of the ingredients and the chocolate. We’ve decided to make the four (matcha, roasted tea, mango & chili, and guava & sansho pepper) on the day, and left the school still with a little bit or nervousness
Since we were also returning to Vancouver that day, we’ve been running around since morning. We got to the school 2 hours prior to the workshop, greeted some people, got the microphones and laptops ready, and etc. We were in a bit of crisis as all of these things weren’t working out with us…As the time neared and the students and our guests started to walk in, the more and more nervous we got. It was our first time holding a workshop with microphone. They were even filming our hands to play it on a bigger screen.
We greeted them in Spanish, which we practiced 2 days beforehand. We started off with “Hola! Encantada de conocerlos!”, then the history of chocolate, and what brought us there, with our rote learned Spanish. I was relieved to see them sort of understand what we were saying.
We also gave them some quiz in regards of Coconama’s flavour, but they all seemed to enjoy it so that was good!
There was a lecture from the chef in the middle of our workshop. We learned a lot when he mentioned about the difference in the flavours of cacao beans grown in different regions.
Then, it was time to taste them! They were all popular. Roasted tea, guava & sansho pepper, and they really seemed fond of the matcha chocolate bar from Coconama we brought over. The concept of flavouring white chocolate was something new to them, so they all really seemed to enjoy the workshop, which was great. Moreover, I really enjoyed this experience as well.
We got a certificate proving that we held our workshop there, and rushed to the airport as our flight was soon. We learned a lot about their thoughts on Japanese ingredients, difference in food culture, and their thoughts towards chocolate. It really was a special experience for us. We’d like to thank all the people,starting off with UDLA’s school president Phelipe, our coordinator Monica, and the guests who participated in our workshop for having us over. Muchas Gracias!!
Let’s call it a day now. This is the last talk for Travel to Ecuador. Next topic is the History of Cacao. See you all on our next post.
With hopes that you will be able to encounter the perfect chocolate just for you,