Chocolate Purveyors 11- Gustavo Pradilla
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Gustavo Pradilla the founder of Tibito Chocolate.
Tibito Chocolate started in 2015 out of curiosity and desire to explore the richness of Colombian cacao beans. Gustavo believed Colombia's cacao was not being fully exploited and decided to work in order to achieve the credit that both Colombian cacao beans and chocolate deserve. With this in mind, the team carefully created top-quality artisan chocolate, by using the wonderful richness and great variety of the cacao beans found in different Colombian regions. Their chocolate is a marvelous trip throughout Colombia’s cacao flavors, fragrances, and textures.
Do you remember your first experience with real chocolate? What was it?
I don’t know if it was the first time, I had Chocolate, but I clearly remember this event. It was probably the end of November when I was a little boy; an aunt gave me an advent calendar as a gift and explained to me how it worked. Of course, I didn’t wait until the first of December and to make a long story short, when December arrived, there was no chocolate left! Since then I have been fascinated with the taste of chocolate.
You worked in the automobile and machinery sector, why did you decide to start making chocolate?
After selling my company in 2011, I had to sign a four-year non-compete clause. For me, it was just not an option not working for such a long time. Consequently, I decided to turn my longtime passion, chocolate, into a family business. For some time, I had followed the development of the craft chocolate movement, as well as the increasing demand for fine flavor cocoa from neighboring countries. During this time, I realized that Colombian cacao was not given the attention it deserved. This curiosity led me to embark on a countrywide journey to source Colombia's finest cocoa beans. As a result, and in order to showcase the high quality and variety of Colombian cacao, Tibitó was born.
What does Tibitó mean?
Tibitó is a word in Chibcha language, it is not clear what the meaning is, though some speculate that it means something good or something big. We chose Tibitó as our brand because this is also the name of our family farm near Bogota, a place for family gatherings which bring back many happy memories, a feeling we hope to convey through our chocolate.
What does Colombian cacao offer other regions don’t?
Colombia has a privileged geographical position, climate diversity, and topography; as a consequence, our country is part of the few countries that produce the world's finest cacao, known as "fine flavor." The market share of this type of cacao is only around 5% to 7% of the total cacao production in the world. Due to its extraordinary taste, it is considered by the chocolate makers, chefs, and connoisseurs as the "prince of cacaos."
Moreover, in Colombia, cacao grows in all of its provinces except an island in the Caribbean (San Andrés island). These regions have different characteristics like altitude, rainfall, terroir, type of plantations, etc. which enriches in different ways the taste of the cacao grown in each region. As a consequence, Colombia can offer a great variety of flavors.
Finally, keep in mind that the cacao tree is native to the Putumayo river basin, which runs through Colombia. So, here is where it all began!
How do you select the cacao you work with?
- We select regions that have interesting characteristics such as weather, terroirs, etc. and that are different from each other.
- We choose growers or associations that have high-quality cocoa varieties (only fine flavor) and environmentally sustainable crops.
- Once the beans arrive at our facilities in Bogotá, we check the quality of the product. The bean and fermentation quality, the percentage of humidity, among others. If all this is right, we proceed to pay cocoa farmers or cooperatives (not intermediaries) a premium price for their product. We engage directly with them to ensure we obtain their best beans and most importantly to contribute to the quality of life of the Colombian rural areas.
What chocolate are you eating from other makers these days?
Goodnow Farms, Ecuador Esmeraldas 70% Chocolate.
If you could only eat one chocolate bar for the rest of your life, what bar would it be?
It would be our Tibitó Tumaco 70%.
For someone trying Tibito Chocolate for the first time, what chocolate would you give them to try?
I wouldn't give them one but three different bars (Tumaco 70%, Putumayo 70%, and Meta 70%). That way, the person would understand what difference the terroir can make to the flavor of chocolate — three bars made with the same recipe, but each one made with beans from a different origin. As a result, each one has a very distinct flavor profile.
What do you like to pair chocolate the most with?
With a good cup of mountain-grown Colombian coffee.
What does the future hold for Tibito Chocolates?
Internationally, we are going to continue working to earn the credit and recognition that both Colombian cocoa beans and chocolate deserve. Currently, we are exporting to Canada, Chile, Saudi Arabia, and Europe, where they have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of our chocolate.
On a national level, we are going to continue teaching Colombians, first to eat high-quality dark chocolate. And second, that to eat premium chocolate, you don’t need to buy an international brand. In Colombia, we have the best cacao in the world.
We want to thank Gustavo for taking the time to participate in our interview and the entire Tibito Chocolate team for making it happen.
To get started with craft chocolate, start with our Kekao Box. We search the world for the finest chocolate bars and bring them right to your doorstep monthly. From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you'll get inside the box! Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.
If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate store.
If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box, or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.