Hi again friends! I know it was only the second day, but I am not sure if anything is going to be able to top it.
I was particularly excited about this day’s journey, since I am very much a nature kind of guy, and I knew we would be venturing towards more rural areas. Little did I know truly how warranted my excitement was.
We started things off by attending Jet Fresh Growers, a rose farm about an hour and a half away from Quito. They run the entire supply chain from ground to shipment, and so it can be described as a true immersion into the flower industry. We walked through the seemingly endless rows of roses, seeing dozens of really cool colors and Juanita, the head of operations at Jet Fresh, was a wonderful guide, and explained the many amazing things she does not only in the process of growing and packaging flowers (both natural colors and the spray-painted varieties), but the care-related benefits her company provides to its employees. At the end, they gave us each yellow roses with the Pitt logo on them!
After that we went to Hacienda San Augustin, which I would argue is the best part of my trip up to date. He showed us around the property, much of which had architecture with ancient Incan walls that were still in tact! Despite how amazing the tour was (including Mignon as a tour guide), many of us were distracted by the two cute dogs that followed us, including a lab named Lady Gaga and a puppy named Maxie. I got to hold him a few times and felt like I was in heaven.
The best part of the tour, however, was the surprise that we had at the end. We went back to the center plaza of the property and were each greeted with a basket of carrots. We were quite confused until we saw about 15 llamas running towards us. Long story short, we got to roam amongst and feed the llamas. Coming from an animal lover, it was extremely cool to be able to interact with them without the confines of a cage or pen.
Last but not least, we visited the Bios chocolate factory, where we were greeted by a self-proclaimed chocolate expert. It became apparent pretty quickly that he had earned that title. He new everything about the history of and the science behind the art of chocolate, and was even in the process of using science to create new flavors of his product for his customers. Make sure to remember that chocolate was actually found to be invented in Ecuador, not Mexico (Yes, I will be correcting people now)!
After giving us the history, he took us into the actual factory and showed us the process of actually taking the cacao pods and turning them into the delicious chocolate that we know and love. The coolest thing I learned was that the cocoa beans are left in bacteria filled boxes so that they can ferment properly. If these boxes were to be clean, the cocoa beans simply would not turn into chocolate. I also learned that even changing a minor step in any of the processes or machinery that he showed us would lead to a different taste (e.g. the stone that is used to crush the cocoa beans into cocoa powder). We also had a bit of fun with the liquid chocolate machines, and I put my head under to receive a mouthful (it was delicious, but I almost threw up because it was WAYYYY too much at once).
The coolest part of this chocolate factory visit however, was the ending. We were directed to a giant table with moldable peanut butter-based chocolate filling, and were each given a tray with chocolate bar molds. I think you know the rest. It was an extremely fun sensory activity, and we watched a factory worker pour the chocolate over the filling and put into the freezer. We then got to wrap the frozen bars ourselves! Best part, we got to buy a boatload of their chocolate at factory price. Best believe some of my clothes are going to have to stay in Ecuador to make room for it. Well, cross that bridge I guess.
Ok anyways, what a day! I need some sleep.