I have been looking forward to this since before I left home, and I finally got to make chocolate from scratch – well, just about!
During the last few weeks, I have been staking out the ChocoMuseo. Not only was I signing up for the chocolate making class, but the people who work there are all fun and friendly. And they have a cafe. Though, it was somewhat difficult to find the place to begin with. I went to one place labeled ChocoMuseo. It was just a small storefront. From there, I went around the corner, up an alleyway, and into a courtyard. There was another place there labeled ChocoMuseo. It was just their workshop. From there, I went up a set of stone stairs hidden in the corner and finally found the real place. And now I go there far too often to try different things from their menu!
The building is made up of six parts and two balconies. When you first walk in you are in the area where you pay. There is the front desk and shelves with various merchandise (aprons, mortar and pestle sets, Willy Wonka movie, chocolate, chocolate soap, chocolate deodorant, and more…) From here, you walk straight forward to reach the central room. There is more merchandise here, and balcony #1 is straight ahead. To the left is the kitchen, both the cafe one and the workshop one. To the right is a room a few steps down that has tables if you are there for the cafe. Balcony #2 is in here. There are also a bunch of signs on the walls with facts that outline a rough history of chocolate. The last two sections are both upstairs, above the kitchen or the cafe. In one, there is a little more seating and a movie that plays on a loop about chocolate making. I haven’t spent much time up here. The other section is also part of the chocolate making tour. There is a cacao tree replica and a bunch of bean-bags that are made out of cacao beans shells. There are some more signs up here. Despite the number of times I’ve been here, I have not managed to read all of the signs!
This mayan hot chocolate was good, but I think that I got a little over-enthusiastic on just about everything and put too much in!
These crepes were really good. They had chocolate and bananas in them. I got a coffee with a chocolate tasting with it. I thought that I was getting something else for the drink, but it was pretty good. Maybe a bit too strong for me and it would have been better separate from the crepe.
This was a bit of a mistake. I had just eaten lunch and was somewhat full. I thought that the banana muffin with a side of fruit sounded good. I also thought that I should have something to drink, so I got the milkshake. After the fondue, I expected a small side, not one the size of my head! Either way, it was really good. The fruit was good and it had honey on it. The milkshake was like really rich chocolate milk.
Today, I planned on leaving the hotel half an hour before my 11am class. Unfortunately, I left 10 minutes late and ended up arriving just on time and slightly out of breath. After that, some of the others were 5-10 minutes late and I was just standing around…
The class started with us giving up our jackets and backpacks in exchange for an apron. We left the kitchen area and went up into one of the two lofts in the room where there was a cocoa tree replica. We got to learn a little history about cocoa trees and beans. Apparently there are three types of cacao trees. One produces sweeter cacao beans but has a smaller production rate. One produces bitter cacao beans and has a higher production rate. The third is a hybrid of the two. Inside a cacao pod (which is oval and approximately the size of an open hand) there are the cacao seeds and a white pulp (which is sweet and edible). Seeds were distributed by monkeys who ate the white pulp and spat the seeds onto the ground. This is probably a really good thing because raw cacao seeds cause hallucinations. Hallucinating monkeys could be a bad thing…
From there, we went back to the kitchen. We were given some cacao beans that we could eat. This was before they were roasted but after they were fermented (…no hallucinations…). They were difficult to peel. There was only a thin skin to peel off, and I ended up cracking mine on the counter like birds do to nuts. After that, we put the remaining beans into a clay oven/bowl that we took turns stirring over a fire. The beans were roasted until they started to make a loud popping sound and smell really good (like brownies in the oven).
After that, the beans were spread out on the counter to cool a little. Once they were cool, we began to peel them. Unlike before, it was really easy. You just grip the bean and twist in two directions. The shell comes right off in two large pieces.
Then, we got to try grinding the beans the mayan way: with a mortar and pestle. In reality, the mayans used a giant stone with a curved stone that they rocked over the beans. We got little individual bowls and a contest to see who could do the best job. At first it seemed simple, but soon the paste stuck to the walls in one giant chunk that I just kept putting pressure on. I thought mine wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best.
After this strenuous work, we were told that we were going to use a grinder to finish the job. We got to take turns turning the crank on a metal grinder that turned our paste/powder into paste.
Then, it was time for the drink portion of the event. The tea that had been brewing from our discarded shells was ready. It was really good. It smells and tastes a little like chocolate.
Next, we got to try a traditional (somewhat) mayan hot chocolate drink. It consists of the cocoa paste, hot water and human blood. We substituted sugar for the blood (thus the somewhat traditional). At this point we also got to learn about how mayans used cocoa beans as currency. It cost about 10 beans for a guinea pig, 15 beans for a prostitute and 100 beans for a slave.
Our last drink was European hot chocolate. This was probably the best hot chocolate I have ever had! It had some of the cocoa paste, hot milk, cloves, cinnamon and sugar. We all took turns using a traditional wooden stick to whisk the mixture to make foam. Apparently it is also necessary to sing while whisking.
Then, we got to learn about how the paste that we made (and proceeded to drink) can be further refined to make two components: cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
Next, we got to go into the other half of the kitchen and see some of the heavy machinery that they use to make professional chocolate. This machine spins and stirs the chocolate for 24 hours to make sure that all of the sugar crystals get dissolved.
This person is using a marble slab to control the temperature of the chocolate (I believe that he is tempering it, but I haven’t done enough research to be sure. Tempering is when the chocolate takes on the right texture and becomes shiny. Without tempering chocolate may take on that white film that people associate with old or bad chocolate.) He is currently scraping the chocolate back into a bowl.
We also got to see some of the chocolate being made that is sold in the shop. They took chocolate and poured it into a plastic bag inside a pitcher. From there, they tied off the plastic bag and cut off a corner to pour into the waiting molds.
Here are the bars I made. The chocolate I poured in wasn’t chocolate that I made myself because it takes over 24 hours to make it, but I did do most of the steps. For my chocolate bars, I chose milk chocolate (I wish that I had picked dark chocolate. I tried it before from the store, but I couldn’t remember if it was milk or dark.). I was planning on bringing some home, but I think that I will eat them all within a few days! I will bring some from the store home, and I also hope to try making this at home. I tried a bunch of different flavors for my chocolate bars. I did one plain one, one with crushed almond, one with cocoa nibs, one with milk and someones leftover dark chocolate, one with cinnamon and one with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The last one was surprisingly the best, I thought!
After this last step, we were told to come back in about an hour. I went out for lunch and wandered around for a bit. I came back a little after an hour and they weren’t set yet. I blame that on the fact that I shopped some more.
Despite the fact that I didn’t take home the chocolate that I made, I thought that this was more than worth the 70s/. ($25) I spent on it. It was really fun and informative. I still think that I would like to try this at home. Since I’m not planning on opening a business out of it, the chocolate won’t be quite as good. I won’t be able to grind the cocoa beans as finely and I won’t have the $500 machine to make it smoother, but the flavor should still be good and I can still say that it is homemade chocolate without the preservatives or the add-ins that companies use to expand shelf-life and quantities!
Update 8/9/2013 (I also added some details about the layout of the place up above.)
I went back one more time last night. I got some hot chocolate (European style with cinnamon and cloves) and just said goodbye to the place. I think that this place is what I will miss most about Peru! I also accidentally ordered a brownie. Oops! I had ordered the banana muffin with fruit (the fruit sounded really good!), but when they were out of it I panicked and ordered the brownie instead of just having the hot chocolate…
The brownie was good, it was just really chocolatey! It was dense, like a flour-less cake.
There is this guy who works there who is always encouraging me and helping me to speak Spanish. I told him that I was leaving and he stopped for a moment to tell me that he’ll miss me and to give me a hug. This is a large part of why I’ll miss this place. Yes, the chocolate is probably better than most, if any, that I could find in the US. But the atmosphere and the employees are all so welcoming and friendly and warm. I just loved being there.