All photos courtesy To’ak Chocolate.

Bespoke travel company Brown + Hudson has created a once-in-a-lifetime, seven-night Luxpedition to the South American country of Ecuador called Heart of Darkness: The Untold Story of Chocolate, beginning in Quito on June 22nd, 2019. This tour takes guests deep into the Ecuadorian jungle to discover the most ancient origins of cacao, and indulge in chocolate in a way they never dreamed possible. 

In partnership with To’ak Chocolate, makers of the world’s finest chocolate, this rare opportunity allows clients to uncover the story of ‘Ancient Nacional,’ an heirloom cacao variety saved from the brink of extinction. Along the way, guests taking part in this Luxpedition will uncover Ecuador’s gastronomic riches with its finest chefs during private tastings, stay in Quito’s most stylish hotel and Ecuador’s finest beach retreat, eat private dinners in extraordinary locations, and so much more.

Traveling in incomparable style from World-Heritage Quito to remote Andean cloudforests and the warm Pacific Ocean, the expertly orchestrated journey will introduce guests to visionary conservationists, award-winning maverick chefs, expert botanists, acclaimed hoteliers, intrepid archaeologists, curators of Ecuadorean culture – not to mention the pilots of the private jets and helicopters that will speed you in comfort to the remotest and most breathtaking parts of this beautiful country.

In July 2012 archaeologists discovered that cacao was in fact first domesticated in Ecuador over 1,500 years before the Maya, who are usually credited with ‘inventing’ chocolate. As reported in The Guardian in October 2018, “The cacao tree, and in particular the drinks made from its dried seeds, has long been linked to the Maya and other ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica. Now experts say seeds from the cacao tree were first used in present-day Ecuador by members of the Mayo Chinchipe culture.”

Ecuador has a rich chocolate heritage, with Nacional once considered the most prized cacao on Earth. Decimated by Witches’ Broom disease in 1916, this cacao was believed to have fallen extinct. Until, in 2007 in a remote valley of Piedra de Plata, Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer To’ak’s co-founders discovered a surviving stand of old-growth cacao trees, which DNA tests confirmed to be 100% pure Nacional.

“In ancient times, chocolate was considered sacred and noble. Then in the industrial era it was commodified and mass-produced. To’ak is working to restore chocolate to its former grandeur and push its boundaries to new horizons,” Toth explains.

Travelers will uncover a chocolate heritage thousands of years older than that of the Maya, and learn how Ecuador’s nacional cacao was saved from the brink of extinction.


Toth will share his passion for the rare nacional cacao tree, which gave us the first chocolate created by man, some 5,300 years ago; take you to the remote reserve where he is helping rescue this ancient tree from extinction; and show the forest clearing where he first hand-made the chocolates that have since become the most coveted in the world.

This intimate experience is available to only twelve people and applications to join and must be received by midnight on Friday April 12th, 2019These twelve fortunate aficionados will venture deep into the jungle and witness first-hand the conservation work Toth and Schweizer are doing to secure the future of this prized cacao variety, long prized for its floral aroma and complex flavor. Tasting the world’s most coveted chocolate in the plantation where it is crafted will be the culmination of the Luxpedition, to discover the source of the world’s rarest chocolate. To take this indulgent tour, visit Brown + Hudson’s website!