Source: Camino Verde
Source Type: Privately owned centralized fermentary
Beans Source: Purchased wet
Fermentation Style: Inoculated, stacked bags
Drying Style: Sun drying patios, hot air mechanical, 1-2 days
Cultivation Notes: Wide variety of genetic types from across Ecuador
Certifications: Organic (in progress)
Exporter: Transmar Ecuador & Ecom Ecuador
Importer: Meridian Cacao
Tasting Notes: Chocolatey, nutty
Start of working relationship: June, 2013
Last Visit: Oct. 2016 by Greg/Bret/Mufu/Ryan/Eric
Tonnes Purchased in 2016: 34.9 MT
Purchased TOTAL (lifetime): ~51 MT
Vicente Norero, the owner and general manager of Camino Verde Cacao, is one of the most innovative cacao producers we know. His products are always improving through his continual experimentation. We love the flavor of his beans so much that not only do we make two chocolate bars, an 85% and 100% (not to mention a limited edition 76% bar in 2017), we also use the chocolate as the base in nearly all of our drinks and many of our pastries at our shops in the US.
2016 was a year of significant change for Camino Verde. Until then, Camino Verde was a single estate which grew and fermented its own cacao and cultivated a variety of other crops near the town of Balao in southern Ecuador. Vicente had developed and refined fermentation techniques for his own beans over years of experimentation. Unfortunately, in 2016, the owner of the farmland decided to sell it so Vicente moved operations north to Duran (near Guayaquil), where he had previously built a chocolate factory. He now buys freshly harvested, unfermented beans from over 100 farmers and associations around Ecuador, searching out the beans that best represent the uniqueness of cacao in Ecuador.
Working successfully with beans from all over the country meant learning about fermentation from a whole new perspective. For instance, cacao grown at a high altitude may not ferment in the same way as cacao grown at sea level. The new fermentary is located in conditions different from those near Balao and all of the beans are not coming from a small set of trees. Each set of beans from each part of Ecuador require time and experimentation to learn how they are best fermented. Camino Verde has been building up a set of practices so they might bring the best flavor out of cacao from all around Ecuador.
In addition to the focus on unique, high-quality cacao, Camino Verde is working with marginalized groups from Los Ríos, in central Ecuador, and Esmeraldas, in the north, to improve their crops and, as a consequence, their livelihoods. In 2017, Camino Verde reached an agreement with a number of different farmers in Los Ríos creating an association to produce Nacional cacao, a variety which originated in Ecuador and continues to command a premium price. Camino Verde is also planning on opening a dedicated collection point near these farms as well as building the infrastructure needed to ferment the beans locally before shipping them to Duran. This work will bring additional jobs and income to the local community. Camino Verde is also working with groups in Esmeraldas, a region in Northern Ecuador. Aware of the demand for beans from Esmeraldas they started collaborating with three different associations to improve the quality of their cacao. In working with these groups, the impact of environment on flavor is apparent. Vicente notes that the beans from the northern part of Esmeraldas are fruity and nutty but the ones from further south are still nutty but with a floral touch. Camino Verde continues to work with the groups in Esmeraldas and Los Ríos improving the fermentation and processing so that they might be able to bring in the best possible price for their products.
We have been working with Vicente for many years and are excited to witness the growth of his work in Los Ríos and Esmeraldas. We are deeply impressed by his dedication to the pursuit of flavor as well as the pursuit of a better income for farmers. Dandelion Chocolate has purchased more beans from Camino Verde than any other single producer and we couldn’t be happier with that decision.