ex-pat discovers the world of chocolate in Ecuador
I hope you enjoyed our introductory post on Ecuador. Those pictures certainly brought back some memories, none of which would have happened without the help of our gracious host, Jeff Stern, a chocolatier from Quito whom I’d met online and who helped plan our Ecuadorian itinerary of chocolate travel.
Jeff Stern Chocolatier
Jeff is originally from Santa Monica, California, and met his Ecuadorian wife, Maria Andrade, in the 1990’s. Both with a sense of wanderlust, they chose to work in Nicaragua as international development consultants on a two-year contract, and then settled in Washington, DC while Maria continued to work on government contracts and Jeff attended culinary school in Maryland. His passion for chocolate was beginning to flourish!
To give their two young children the benefit of an extended family, Jeff and Maria moved to Ecuador in 2007 to be near her parents and family. He now runs a chocolate business in a small shop on his in-laws’ property in North Quito’s Plaza Las Americas district. Not that easy to find as there is no signage, but if you call ahead, Jeff will be pleased to show you his shop and give you a taste of his chocolates.
Chocolate in Ecuador
Jeff has become one of the leaders in the Ecuadorian chocolate industry over the past few years, making the Gianduja brand of chocolates to suit the tastes of the local market, the more adventurous Aequare Fine Chocolates brand of bars for the export market (being rebranded as Stern Chocolates,) some custom chocolate for larger firms, and giving chocolate tours for groups such as Ecole Chocolat. He also has a Cocoa Pod business! Jeff is quite an enterprising man of chocolate and always looking for new opportunities.
He makes 15-20 flavours of pralines, depending on the season. Blackberry, salted caramel, milk chocolate truffles, coffee, rum and coconut, and fondant with coconut are his most popular flavours of enrobed chocolates. As Jeff uses a butter ganache to make his chocolates, they have a longer shelf life of 8-12 weeks if stored properly. He also makes four flavours of chocolate bars. We really enjoyed the lemongrass variety.
We stayed in the small apartment that Maria’s family rents out to international travellers and found it to be an excellent way to tour Quito on a budget. There are many families that rent out private accommodations throughout the Ecuadorian capital — a highly recommended way to see this city of just over 2 million residents. Hosteling is a great way to go if you’re short on funds and /or are interested in meeting people. A good site to check out if you’re looking for a hostel is http://www.italian.hostelworld.com.
A great chocolaty article!! I am truly fascinated with the story of Jeff and his wife. I never knew, there is so much more to the world of chocolate. Thanks for sharing this post. I truly enjoyed reading it.
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Glad you enjoyed reading the post, Aayna. Thanks for visiting the blog. There will be many more chocolate stories from around the world shared here. I hope you’ll subscribe so you don’t miss any. This week’s will be about St. Lucia.
Doreen recently posted…does chocolate beer contain real chocolate?
At the risk of coming across as a chocolate novice, I had no idea at all that you could buy such things as Cacao candles and Cacao masks. Consider my life changed forever, Doreen! 😛
The world of chocolate is huge, Trinity! You’ve certainly come to the right place to find out more about it. Stay tuned!
Hey !, Thank you so muchfor this particular blog article. I was just trying to find info about this subject and I definitely was surprised in a good way to find this blog post here on your portal. First of all you’ve completed great work on studying of this theme and I think it is just so stunning. In addition to that I enjoyed the way you shared your story, I also think that you are flawless as a blogger as well. Hope to see new blog posts of yours some time soon. Have a nice day!
Hi Doreen! Jeff sure has an interesting story and more importantly, chocolates…lots of it 🙂 Looks like you had a really great time there. Looking forward to lots of photos in your next post 🙂
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Thanks for your comment, Shamis, and thanks for returning to the blog.
Glad you’re enjoying sharing my journey. Lots more to come!
Doreen — before starting to read your posts, I never knew there was so much that goes into making chocolate and the infinite variety. Makes my mouth water!
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Thanks, Jeannette. And if you’re learning lots here on the blog, just wait until the book comes out! The blog is just a tease for “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.” I hope you’ll enjoy that, too.
Thanks, Catarina. Yes, I’ve found the chocolate people I’ve met to be highly passionate and fascinating people. Eating the chocolate is definitely the icing on the cake!
What a wonderful story Doreen! Jeff and his wife really have an interesting life. Besides reading about the chocolate he makes makes my mouth water:-)
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Hi Doreen! Susan Cooper recommended I come check out your site. Of course Susan always has fantastic recommendations- I am glad I came. I would LOVE to go down to Ecuador on a tour. My friends at Millcreek Cacao have done it and loved it… and Jeff. Anyway, hope to chat with you soon. 🙂
Hi Gina: I’ll have to thank Susan for sending you my way. The more chocolate lovers … the merrier!
Yes, I’ve been in touch with the folks at Millcreek and am waiting for samples from them to add to my tasting repertoire.
I’ll definitely check out your blog, and hope that you’ll subscribe to mine so that you don’t miss a post!
Lighted cacao candles, cacao facial mask on my face, while nibbling on some dark choco…now that’s my definition of quality me time, don’t you think so, Doreen?
Adeline recently posted…Top Food Picks at the Ultimate Taste Test 9.0
You are a girl close to my heart, Adeline. Stay tuned, as Chocolatour will have a chapter on all things chocolate to further expand your chocolate obsession.
Indeed, Virginia, and it was very convenient being so close to a hospital! It was really lovely meeting Jeff and the whole extended family. Maria’s sister, Maria Cristina, was really helpful and insightful in giving us touring tips from a woman’s perspective.
But I do love the luxury of a 5-star hotel as well, and the W in Barcelona remains as one of my favourite travel adventures. 🙂
Yes, Susan, staying in private accommodations is always more enriching than staying in a hotel. Even the family dog got used to us after a while! I was just reading somewhere that sites such as VRBO (that help homeowners find renters) are really cutting into the B&B and hotel businesses worldwide. Jeff and his family gave us a great rate, helped us find our way around and even replaced the coffeemaker during our visit.
As usual, the chocolate sounds amazing. I am always envious of your travels to explore and experience the chocolate world. How wonderful that is to actually have the opportunity to stay in that apartment. It’s gives you a much better opportunity to see the area from the locals point of view. 🙂
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Thanks, for your comment, Susan. You made me realize I should have included a photo of the apartment we had in Quito, so I’ve now added it to the post. It was a beautiful sunny place with lots of windows and a nice view of the mountains.
That is awesome. I’m sure staying in the apartment made the whole experience that much more engaging… 🙂
Susan Cooper recently posted…Trip To France: A French Wedding
What an adventuresome couple! Love the look of the cocoa-pod candles!.
Hi Linda: Yes, Jeff and Maria have had some amazing adventures. And their children are so fortunate to be benefitting from that global attitude. It makes our world so much more enriching when we have a global perspective in our upbringing.
And yes, the cocoa pod candles are really neat! A perfect gift for any chocolate lover.
How nice! Making new friends while working. Sounds like a lovely place, not to mention tasty! Looking forward to more of these posts. 🙂
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Thanks for being the first to comment on the post, Cheryl!
Yes, this journey of chocolate exploration has introduced me to many amazing and passionate people around the world. I am one lucky chocolate-loving gal!
Glad to have you along on the journey.