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Must-See Coffee and Cacao Tours in South America

To'ak South American chocolate tours

To'Ak Chocolate and Art Tour

To honor two of the world’s favorites—coffee and chocolate—we head to South America for the best travel tours to taste the finest beans

A day without coffee or chocolate is a day we never want to see. The food of the gods, cacao, and the elixir of life, coffee, are aptly named for their healing benefits and down-right delicious qualities. Chocolate is a guilty-pleasure for many, but it may not be known that its roots date back 5,300 years where cacao was first discovered in the upper Amazon of Ecuador. Coffee beans also have an impressive origin story where they were harvested first on the Arabian Peninsula during the 15th Century and would eventually make their way to South America and now savored on a few not-to-miss tours.

Head to Ecuador’s diverse high-altitude terrain or the tropical lands of Colombia for guided tours that will show you the history of harvesting to the etiquette of tasting.

chocolate and coffee tours in South America

To'Ak Chocolate and Art Tour

Whether you are grabbing a quick cup from your local barista or picking up a chocolate bar as a gift for a friend, paying attention to the ingredients and quality of these products is key to getting the full benefits of the beans. Raw cacao is a superfood consumed for its potency of potassium, iron and magnesium flavonoids, which help with cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Coffee beans, on the other hand, are high in antioxidants, nutrients, and of course, improves energy and can even help with memory. We rounded up four of the best coffee and cacao tours in South America from some of the continent’s largest producers of the beans to help you plan for a culinary trip south of the border. Head to Ecuador’s diverse high-altitude terrain or the tropical lands of Colombia for guided tours that will show you the history of harvesting to the etiquette of tasting. ¡Buen provecho!

To'ak South American coffee tours

To'Ak Chocolate and Art Tour

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TO’AK CHOCOLATE & ART TOUR | Quito, Ecuador
Perched high in the hillsides of Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, just below the tree-lined Parque Metropolitano, sits one of the country’s most important landmarks. Once the private residence of master painter and sculptor, Oswaldo Guayasamín, the preserved space is now home to his art collections and a public museum dedicated to his large-scale murals. Stepping into his historical home is a nod to the greats as you spot Picasso paintings hung above indigenous artifacts and walk through the ornately decorated dining hall that Guayasamín once used to entertain his guests (Fidel Castro and the Prince of Monaco, to name a few). So, for all of you history-buffs, art-fanatics—and now chocolate-addicts—you can add this guided cacao and art tour in South America to your list of to-dos.

To'ak tasking room chocolate tours

To'Ak Chocolate and Art Tour

Bridging together art, history and cacao for an immersive experience is To’ak, whose Ecuadorian-based company produces some of the finest single-origin dark chocolate in the world. Their To’ak Chocolate & Art Tour takes guests into the home of Guayasamín for a one-hour professionally-guided tour of his stunning property, which comes clad with an outdoor pool glancing out to the steep valley. You will then be walked through a gallery housing some of his most prominent paintings that beg to be appreciated with reverence as the painter drew from his own study of war and trauma around the world. To lighten the mood, one of the members of To’ak leads you to the intimate wine cellar where the cacao tasting commences. The company prides themselves on being the first tree-to-bar chocolate maker to explore the science and art of aging dark chocolate in an acutely comprehensive way. So, expect references to fine winemakers and whisky distillers, and a deep dive into the history of the brand and how their centuries-old cacao trees were ever discovered.

The company prides themselves on being the first tree-to-bar chocolate maker to explore the science and art of aging dark chocolate in an acutely comprehensive way.

South America chocolate and coffee tours

To'Ak Chocolate and Art Tour

Throughout the tasting, guests will savor and identify a variety of dark chocolate bars that includes their Kampot Pepper bar that has a touch of spice from the infusion of Cambodia’s famous pepper; their Andean Alder bar, which is matured for four years in the wood and can evoke notes of cranberry, campfire and a touch of beef with rosemary and tobacco on the palate. One of my personal favorites was the Tequila Cask bar that is aged in Don Julio and has hints of butterscotch and vanilla and an overall sensuality that is rare to find in such a dark chocolate. To polish off the tasting, we sipped on Bowmore 10-Year Old single malt Scotch whisky, which adds an entirely different element to one’s palate, arousing unexpected notes with each bite of the bar. But we don’t want to give away any more details—you must go and experience it for yourself on a South American tour. And if you aren’t able to make the journey south, To’ak chocolate products are available for purchase online and scan be shipped internationally. We can’t think of a better way to say, “I love you,” than with these finely-crafted South American cacao powders and signature bars.

CHOCOLATE TASTING RITUALS FROM TO’AK
To'ak chocolate and coffee tours

To'Ak Chocolate and Art Tour

VISUAL
Inspect the color and sheen of the chocolate bar. White splotches (called bloom) indicate that the chocolate has suffered temperature damage. When this happens, the chocolate is still edible, but the nuances will be compromised.
 
AUDITORY
Break off a piece of the chocolate and listen to the “snap” that it makes. A fairly loud snap usually indicates that the bar was properly tempered.
 
ON THE NOSE
•Bring a piece of the chocolate near to your nose and explore the aroma—as you would with a glass of wine.
• Start out by assessing the intensity of the aroma. Then, look for primary characteristics such as fruity, floral, earthy, nutty, spicy or classic “chocolatey” aromas.
• If you already have a well-trained nose, you may also perceive secondary aromas. Don’t worry if you can’t pick out specific characteristics—dark chocolate is often subtle on the nose. You will soon get a second chance to perceive aromas, via the retro nasal passage, once the chocolate is in your mouth.
 
LET IT MELT
Now move the piece of chocolate into your mouth. Don’t chew! Rather, use your teeth to break the chocolate into a few smaller pieces, and then let it melt.
 
TEXTURE
Take note of the texture. Maybe it’s smooth and silky, or maybe it’s a bit granular. Observe how it melts (quickly or slowly) and its consistency (thin, thick, pasty, or buttery).
 
ON THE PALATE
Try to identify the primary flavor characteristics (fruity, floral, vegetal, nutty, spicy, chocolatey). From there, you can also try picking out more specific notes, such as raisin, fig, orange blossom, hazelnut, forest floor, honey, anise, tobacco, caramel… the list is nearly endless.
 
COMPLEXITY
Pay attention to how the flavor evolves over time. A complex chocolate will unfold like a miniature movie inside your mouth, with a cast of different characters and a developing plot line.
 
FINISH
Last but not least, observe the finish. Does the flavor sensation disappear shortly after the chocolate melts, or does it linger? What are the final sensations? How do you feel in the afterglow?

Hacienda las Danesa chocolate and coffee tours

Hacienda Las Danesa

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HACIENDA LA DANESA CHOCOLATE WORKSHOP | Naranjito, Ecuador
Taking a trip to the coastal region of Ecuador is a drastic change in scenery from the country’s inlands. Just outside of the sprawling metropolis of Guayaquil, lies the tropical and forested setting of Naranjito, where the distinguished and luxurious Hacienda La Danesa will call you in. The charming farmhouse features updated amenities and invites many travelers to take a load off while being treated with exceptional hospitality.

chocolate tours at Hacienda las Danesa

Hacienda La Danesa

The family-owned 1,200-acre estate offers authentic experiences for travelers not only looking to travel abroad, but to grow abroad. During your stay at the Hacienda, you can repose in your perfectly appointed cottage rooms with luxe furnishings, wood-crafted décor and gorgeous garden views and private verandas. This area of Ecuador also offers some impressive landmarks, like the Ruinas de Ingapirca and the Devil’s Nose train that cuts though the tropical terrain.

With a nod to the culinary-inclined travelers, their Chocolate Workshop—From Bean to Bar, takes visitors through the cacao plantation and straight into the kitchen where they will begin tempering the chocolate themselves.

Hacienda las Danesa South American tours

Hacienda La Danesa

With an emphasis on the natural beauty of the area, the excursions range from hikes into the misty cloud forest of Bucay, rappelling down waterfalls or experiencing the world-renowned cacao through a hands-on South American chocolate tour. With a nod to the culinary-inclined travelers, theirChocolate Workshop—From Bean to Bar, takes visitors through the cacao plantation and straight into the kitchen where they will begin tempering the chocolate themselves. The next phase is one that has us drooling from afar. Every guest will begin to craft their own chocolate bars and barks with the chance to make their very own chocolate ganache filling from scratch.

While you get your hands dirty, the on-site chef or an executive chocolatier will guide the unique experience and discuss the importance of fair-trade cacao beans and what this rich and delicious bean means to the local economy. While your bars cool, you will prepare hot or cold chocolate for sipping—a common drink in Ecuador that tastes like liquid heaven.

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Big Five Tours' coffee tour

Big Five Tours

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BIG FIVE TOURS’ COFFEE TOUR | Huila, Colombia
Our featured South American coffee tour takes place in the stunning naturaleza of southern Colombia in the town of Huila. Distinguished by its diverse beauty, this magical place is surrounded by the rushing Magdalena River, the Andes mountains and the sweeping desert landscape—making this a destination for the adventurous. Although the more well-known region of the country, the Coffee Triangle, produces the majority of the coffee that is exported and sold around the world, we invite you to take the path less beaten and head to Huila. You will avoid large crowds and get to experience the same coffee that the Colombian locals are likely to be sipping on. This more remote area is an iconic place to dip your senses into all thing’s coffee-related, and the sustainably-minded South American coffee tour offered through luxury outfitter, Big Five Tours & Expeditions, is an ideal way to book this journey. The tours are custom-tailored for each travel group, allowing you to create an experience all your own.

Big Five Tours' chocolate and coffee tour

Monasterio San Agustin Boutique Hotel

Consider staying at the Monasterio San Agustin Boutique Hotel during your visit to Huila to get a historical flavor of the area while relaxing in this uber-chic boutique hotel that dates back to 1810. While here, enjoy the restaurant’s offerings that pay homage to the typical cuisine of the region with an infusion of Mediterranean flavors. Don’t miss the observation deck that boasts 360-degree views of the Primavera coffee farm below and the expansive, lush landscape stretching beyond.

guests and coffee connoisseurs can enjoy a private journey to the local fields where they will see the process of coffee being harvested and roasted firsthand.

Colombian worker selecting the coffee beans

Big Five Tours

Getting to the heart of the trip, being the highly-anticipated study into the origin of the elixir, is a trek in and of itself. Only recently are the roads accessible due to the military and political crises that has luckily shifted from dangerous to tranquilo, over the years. Now guests and coffee connoisseurs can enjoy a private journey to the local fields where they will see the process of coffee being harvested and roasted firsthand. You may notice the embedded gratitude in the locals who live from this land and who are now seeing tourism take flight in their own backyards. Although the coffee is something to write home about—noted for its smooth, rich, nutty and caramel-like flavors—it is also worth visiting the San Agustín Archaeological Park nearby. For a lesson in history, head to this landmark that is one of the world’s largest necropolises showcasing ancient artifacts and stone sculptures that predate the more common Latin American empires. Huila has both charm and character, all while offering one of the best cups of coffee that you will not soon forget.

CAPITAL OF COFFEE: 3 CAN’T-MISS COLOMBIA CAFES
Chocolate and coffee tours South America

Juan Valdez Café—This ‘Starbucks of Colombia’ coffee chain has become a staple in the region. You can’t travel far without spotting their red branding on many a street corner where they are serving up quick cups of Joe, custom lattes, and nevados (frappes).
 
Pergamino Café—The Medellín-based founders at Pergamino are as fresh as their beans. The young business-minded locals are carrying on their father’s legacy and are the creators behind the very Instagramable café. Expect premium coffee prepped by experienced baristas handmaking the impressively tasty drinks made from local beans.
 
Varietale—Located in the capital city of Bogotá is one of Varietale’s chic cafés, where travelers can lounge in the bustling district while savoring a hot or cold cup of coffee. With a wide offering of coffee bean varieties, guests can explore the terroir of Colombia at length. We love their unique filtering methods, from Japanese techniques to the classic French press.

South American chocolate tours

Finca Casa Frajares Coffee Experience and Tasting

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FINCA CASA FRAJARES COFFEE EXPERIENCE AND TASTING | Quito, Ecuador
Due to coffee being a traditional resource used throughout Ecuador’s history and commonly consumed today, we have chosen another hot spot in the country to add to your list. At Finca Casa Frajares, just outside of Quito’s bustling city in Nanegalito near the steep Andean-Choco mountains, you can experience the country’s highland coffee that is harvested and produced here. Their coffee is noted to be especially aromatic and flavorful, which guests will get to sip for themselves after they have gone through an immersive journey into the plantation to better understand the harvesting and roasting of the beans. The property itself is a lovely retreat offering guests the chance to take in the beauty via their swinging hammocks under the canopy while listening to the native birds. Children will also have a handful of games and activities to enjoy while the rest of the family dips their interest into the on-site coffee tour.

South American chocolate and coffee tours

Finca Casa Frajares Coffee Experience and Tasting

The Coffee Experience at Casa Frajares starts with a welcome drink of ‘coffee lemonade’ made from the pulp of dehydrated coffee, before setting off into the coffee room to discuss all stages of the process—from cherry ‘seed’ to cup. For nature-enthusiasts looking to review the science of the natural cycles of coffee, the plantation visit will deliver. You will be led by expert coffee growers who will walk you through the entire process of coffee flotation, pulping, fermentation, natural drying, threshing and even the packaging of the final product. Round out the experience with a tasty lunch in the cliffside café crafted in glass and wood that is set against the pristine plantation. There is even a paired coffee and cocoa tasting and the chance to roast some coffee beans for yourself. We recommend snagging a few bags of the tasty beans for friends back home who will surely be awaiting stories from your high-altitude coffee course.

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