Mimi and Miriam – though born a world apart -are soul sisters through and through. To witness them working side-by-side is a gift. Like Mimi, Miriam is a beloved leader in her community. She has a genuine concern for her people and works tirelessly in support of them. She is quick to make a joke (inappropriate at times) and lights up with laughter. And, like Mimi, she wants nothing more than to spend her days with the ones she loves the most – her friends and family.
In this photo, its late afternoon on Friday, February 26th and Mimi and Miriam are just getting starting in the process of making ganache. Ganache is the delicate cream that makes up the center of a truffle. Here Mimi pounds away at the chocolate as Miriam deftly watches and prepares the cream and herbs that will soon be folded into her ganache. This is the official ‘truffle research and development phase’ and, as you can imagine, it took a lot of convincing to muster up a quality control department.
You may think sourcing and selling high quality chocolates in Latin America’s largest cacao-exporting country is an easy proposition. Not so. Some of the big questions we’ve been hashing out with Miriam and Luiz follow:
Cacao. Sadly, cacao doesn’t grown on trees ready-to-eat. Much like coffee, the process entails picking, cleaning, fermenting, drying, processing (removing defects and separating according to quality), roasting, etc etc. Part of our work is to identify suppliers of quality bulk chocolate for Miriam’s business. We’ve found a few sourcing possibilities like Kallari – a fantastic indigenous-owned chocolate company – but the search continues. The idea is to find a supplier of high-quality bulk chocolate that is like-minded at a pricepoint that isn’t unreasonable for Miriam’s market.
Next week we (Juliette, Kim and I plus our new friend Jenny) hit the cacao-producing areas for Sourcing 101. Before we hop a plane back to the United States, we hope to connect Miriam with several options for chocolate sourcing.
Cream. To buy a cow or not to buy a cow, this is the question. Most milk and dairy products in Ecuador are highly pasteurized and sold in plastic bags. I have yet to find heavy cream available in any of the local tiendas. So where does one find the cream necessary to make Mimi-quality truffles? Straight from the cow. Luiz (Miriam’s husband) – perplexed by the cream-sourcing conundrum – tells me the other day that perhaps Miriam can purchase cream from their cousin’s cow. He tells me this cousin milks the cow each and every morning, the perfect supply of fresh cream for Miriam’s ganache-making. Now we’re talking. However, he goes on to say the cousin lives 25 miles away. Ugh. While its common for folks in Empire, Michigan to drive to Traverse City for groceries, a 25 mile drive in the Northern Andes to procure cream is a bit of a stretch. Maybe Miriam’s new ‘House of Chocolate’ will feature a petting zoo with one lone dairy cow? Who knows?
What I know for sure is that Miriam and Luiz are two exceptionally astute and resourceful people. I’m confident they’ll navigate the world of sourcing – in search of chocolate, cream or comradery – with ease and exito (success)!
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