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It all started IN…

2017 by Susana Cárdenas in Cambridge University, UK.

Our aim is to search for cacao jewels in order to make our chocolate. Those cacao jewels tend to be hidden or forgotten. We want to discover them, let them shine and bring their glory back. In order to search for these cacao jewels, we have done months of research, travelled extensively, reconnected with our origins and bonded with local communities. We want to keep the heritage and the identity of our region through the beauty of our cacao; cacao is the ulterior but powerful motive. We believe in selecting our cacao trees, in searching for the best flavour in the fermentation process, in empowering local people, in regenerating the best cacao tress and preserving them. 


Award-winning, precious and heritage chocolate that preserves primary forests, regenerates vintage cacao plantations and empowers local communities in Ecuador


The Team

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Susana Cárdenas A.

Founder and curator

Susana comes from Manabí Province in Ecuador, a cacao-growing region with a longstanding history of Arriba Nacional cacao cultivation. Her heritage hails from two regions in Ecuador: the Pacific Coast and the Andes. Her father was an inventor from the capital, Quito, who left to settle in Manabí Province because he was so mesmerised by its people and its culture and saw it as an ideal place to design and create machinery for local coffee, cacao and banana factories. Her mother came from a traditional family in Upper Manabí, strongly bound to cacao for generations.

Susana has been a journalist for many years, writing for Spanish and Latin-American publications such as El Pais and El Universo. Over the last seven years, based in London, she has worked in the chocolate and cacao industry, as a journalist, a chocolate taster and entrepreneur. In 2013, she returned to Ecuador to found Montecristi Chocolate, which won several awards at the Academy of Chocolate.  Cárdenas Chocolate is her new venture founded at Cambridge Judge Business School, UK. She is committed to creating chocolate with precious and heritage cacao that preserves primary forests, regenerates vintage cacao plantations and empowers local communities. Currently, she is leading a team of 25 small-scale cacao farmers, talented craftsmen, sustainable wood producers, designers and chocolate makers from five regions in Ecuador.

Leonardo Andrade

Cacao grower

Leonardo is a community leader in Upper Manabí, Ecuador with 30 years of experience in Arriba Nacional cacao.  His bond with cacao cultivation dates back three generations, to his father and grand-father. He is committed to keeping the legacy of his ancestors alive and empowering his community of cacao producers.

Gabriela Cárdenas

Architect and packaging designer

Liz Cárdenas

Fashion designer and brand advisor

David Cárdenas

Forester and sustainable teak wood grower

Dr Chris Coleridge

Cambridge Judge Business School

Board of advisors

Abel Uretra-Vidal, PHD

Eagle Genomics

Board of Advisors