Peru has long been making chocolate. Fruity types, spicy types, sweet types, bitter types, all kinds of chocolate made to deliciousness. Chocolate began in the Americas with the Mayans, eventually spreading the new idea to Peru. Janet gave us the opportunity to attend a chocolate making class here in Cusco, for our first full day in the Inca capital, nestled high in the valleys of the Andes.
The class was held in a small building with an amazing smell and a lovely vibe in the air. Our teacher, Yariko, gave us a wonderful chance to practice our Spanish with her. The moment she started I was eager to get my hands messy in cacao.
But it was great the pace she went at. We learned about the life cycle of a cacao bean, figured out that mosquitos are not entirely without purpose because they pollinate cacao, and then she proceeded to show us three full baskets of beans. Out of three huge baskets, we each picked out seven big fat ones to use for our chocolate. To be honest, I had no idea what “big and fat” meant.
We got to stir and roast our seven “babies” in a clay pot, stiring them around and around with a ladle.
Then we got to crack our babies and put their shells in a bowl. Now we had cacao beans ready for grinding!
Our chef’s hats and aprons were on, and we started grinding our beans three times more than I previously thought was necessary. She looked at my bowl which was practically a paste, added some warm water, and gently said “a little more.”
How can I do more?!
I was very new to the world of cacao and did not understand what on Earth she meant by more. I just kind of sat there trying to see how I could grind my cacao into finer pieces.
And then I rolled up my sleeves, put on some gloves, and dug my hands into the chocolate I had just made, now with water and sugar. I clumped my palm-sized glob of chocolate into my hands and began compressing it from its loose texture in the smooth stone grinding bowl.
And now for the final step: molding. Our gloves, bowl, and table space were covered in chocolate. I felt like we lost a lot of chocolate from being too messy. But right in front of us sat three pieces of 100% (almost) our chocolate. We had harvested (picked from the basket), roasted, shelled, grinding, compressed, and finally molded the chocolate. I felt great.
But now for the part that any kid would say was more fun than anything: Adding toppings to chocolate and molding it. We each had a small chunk of chocolate that was made by us, but now we got to use cacao from the huge bowl of liquid chocolate, things such as MnMs or coconut pieces, and some unique plastic molds to form more chocolate.
We got to add a layer of chocolate to our molds, then add little pieces of whatever we liked. We topped it off with another layer of mouth-watering liquid chocolate. Then after 45 minutes of refrigeration, we got to bring it home!
More opportunities like this remind me of how lucky we are to have this amazing adventure here for us. Truly amazing.
Below: Crafting Pictures