It’s true. Chocolate makes you high.
Well, that might be just a teeny bit exaggerated. Eating forty cacao beans fresh from the jungle could make you hallucinate. Ladies, it’s no wonder we love chocolate so much!
April this year, I took a trip through Cucsco, Peru. This 15th century Incan town, laid out in the shape of a puma, is just magnificent. The cobblestone-lined streets are filled with bubbly school children dressed perfectly and proudly in their neatly ironed school uniforms, ladies selling massages for those with post-Incatrail blues at a “cheap price for you. Fifteen soles for one hour. Very cheap.” Actually, this is pretty cheap. Fifteen soles is less than AU$6. After my epic hike to Machu Picchu I certainly did return for a knot-removing, stress-relieving back rub, all on my minuscule backpacker budget.
And just like the massages, one of the coolest things I did is also aimed at world wanderers. Apart from our teachers, there wasn’t a Peruvian in sight.
A chocolate making workshop. (Ladies, wipe that saliva from your chin or it will ruin the consistency of the chocolate mixture).
Here’s how it went.
Gladys, an extremely sweet Peruvian lady, about four foot nothing with a very cheeky smile explained the process from removing the cacao pod from the tree to fermenting and drying the beans. All you need to know is that the beans, before they are roasted, don’t taste like chocolate. So if you’re in the jungle and eat forty cacao beans to get high…it ain’t gonna taste pretty.
We then jumped into the chocolate kitchen with Manuel. Again, four foot nothing with a very cheeky smile. I smell a trend. We roasted the beans to reduce their moisture and to make the shell-take-off-ing-process a tad easier. Prior to roasting, they had about 60% moisture and post-roast…a teeny tiny 1-2%!! Holy Mother of Math. That’s a big reduction if my subtraction skills prove precise.
After we peeled the shells off, we noticed a white membrane striped throughout the bean. This, my friend, is what we know as cocoa butter. It looked a bit like the fat from those swanky marbled steaks.
The next part of the process had us using our elbow grease to grind the beans. To my delight, Manuel decided it would be a competition to see who could use the mortar and pestle to smoosh the beans into the smoothest, stickiest paste. Yeoww! Battle of the beans. We had thirty seconds…GO!
I was determined. Sweat beads appeared on my forehead, lactic acid started to build in my arms, I could feel my heart pounding and I’m sure I sounded like a thirsty dog.
BUZZ! “Times up! Step away from your bowls.” said Manuel as he inspected our work. The look on his face would put Matt Preston to shame.
First place! No gold star but I did win a bag of Peruvian cacao tea. Basically it was a bag of cacao husks with a fancy sticker but when boiled in water, makes this delish chocolate flavoured tea. No lactose. No worries!
Then…ohhhh yes…and THEN…we saw and smelt what every pre-menstrual lady dreams of…melted chocolate. My mouth oozed with delight. The process between making the cocoa paste and having melted chocolate takes twenty-four hours so that part was just explained. But to be honest, I wasn’t keen to wait a whole day anyway.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to eat the melted chocolate. Into shaped moulds it went along with a pantry full of flavours to choose from. Let’s just say I got a bit carried away and my salty, minty, chilli, almondy, gingery chocolate tasted more like a toilet bowl on the Inca Trail than a delectable chocolately treat. I considered donating it to a homeless person, but even that would have been an insult.
Note to self – Less is more.
KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid!).
You can do it too
ChocoMuseo is in the heart of Cusco, Peru. As a chocolate museum, factory, shop and cafe, they also run three chocolate making workshops daily where you get your hands (and face) very dirty. You take home what you make in all workshops.
From the cacao bean to the chocolate bar is the workshop described in this blog and runs for approximately two hours.
Chocolate truffles and ganache teaches you how to make these delectable treats. It runs for two hours.
Investment: A mouth watering workshop will cost you about AU$27.50 per person at the time of writing.
For more information on this, and the other cool stuff ChocoMuseo offers visit www.chocomuseo.com