By Christopher Lux
When you walk into Karana Chocolateria, you see rows of colorful bonbons, truffles, and chocolate bars laid out like fine jewelry in glass cases. Through the door of a display refrigerator, chocolate Petits Gâteaux, tarts and mousses can be seen.
The co-owner, Alex Carrillo, greets customers. His brother, Andrés Carrillo, can be seen through a window in the kitchen, making some of Ecuador’s finest chocolates.
With Karana, the two Cuencano brothers can combine Andrés’s passion for chocolate, Alex’s interest in business management, and their love of Ecuador.
Andrés attended San Isidro culinary school in Cuenca. “I fell in love with chocolate four years ago when a famous Mexican chef chocolatiere came to Cuenca.”
“I don’t know what happened in that class,” Alex says of his brother. “He just became really passionate about chocolate.”
Andrés then took a course at San Ignacio culinary school in Miami “with one of the best chef chocolatieres of the world.” There he learned new techniques and his passion grew.
Alex is completing a degree in business administration from the University of Azuay. With Alex’s business knowledge and Andrés’s skills, they knew that they were on to something. They started making and selling chocolate out of their house until they were overwhelmed with business.
“We did a wedding with fifteen hundred people,” Alex says. “They bought enough chocolate for everyone and we made it all. We made chocolate for a baptism with four hundred people.”
Hoping to meet a strong consumer desire for quality chocolate, last month they opened the doors of Karana.
Working closely to build a business has proven to be an enjoyable experience for them. “We are very close and have a great relationship,” Alex says. “Our personalities complement each other.”
Their interests have started to meld, and Andrés’s passion for chocolate has spilled over to his brother. “Chocolate is one of the most beautiful things,” Alex says. “I’m always learning more about it from him.”
“We use Ecuadorian products, because our country has many different, exotic, and quality products,” says Andrés. “We try to take advantage of that. We want to show we can make quality products with what we have here.”
Karana is decorated with Ecuadorian products like hats, dolls, colorful tablecloths, and musical instruments. The chocolate boxes feature popular tourist sites, along with explanations of the sites. They want to show that Ecuador has a lot to offer, and, as Alex says, “Ecuadorian chocolate is the best in the world. Visitors from other countries try our chocolate and then buy some to take back. Last week, somebody from New York and another person from Spain bought a lot of our chocolate before they went home. People appreciate our chocolate, because they know it’s real. They know the benefits of eating real chocolate.”
Their 18 different varieties of bonbons incorporate traditional Ecuadorian flavors like maracuyá, naranjilla, borojó, limón, and ají.
“I also always use a hundred-percent cacao fino de aroma, which is the best Ecuadorian chocolate,” says Andrés. “This is the chocolate that Ecuador uses to export. I blend the best raw chocolate with fruits and nuts using different techniques that I learned in the States.”
The chocolate at Karana is all chocolate—no butter, eggs, cream, flour, or oils. “It’s real chocolate for better health and a natural flavor,” Alex says. “We work with different suppliers around the country to get the best.”
“We also like to get different flavors of cocoa,” Andrés adds. “Cocoa in the Amazon is a lot different than cocoa on the coast. For example, cocoa in Esmeraldas is more acidic and earthy. Cocoa from Los Rios, though, is planted and grown close to sugar cane, so it’s sweeter.”
The same dedication to chocolate is put into their drinks. The hot chocolate, for example, comes in varying intensities: Mother-in-Law, Grandmother, and Lacteado. Andrés and Alex both agree that the strongest—the Mother-in-Law—is the best.
“At a cafe, you can always find different types of coffee beverages, but chocolate is the last drink,” Andrés says. “It’s like an after-thought, and it’s not real chocolate. I want to make real chocolate here. Others use artificial chocolate flavors, not a product of cocoa bean. I want people to taste real chocolate—Ecuadorian chocolate.”
Karana Chocolateria is located on Guayas and Av. Pichincha, a block from Av. Loja.