I was an honorary Oompa Loompa for the day, and it was brilliant.
OK, so I didn’t get to make a chocolate river or see geese that lay golden eggs, but I did learn how to make chocolate from ‘bean to bar’ at the Choco Museo.
Through the workshop at the Choco Museo in Miraflores, and other locations, you learn about the production of chocolate and what you can do with the final product. You start with the cocoa pod and follow the process all the way through to making your own chocolates to take home.
Plus, you eat & drink an awful lot of chocolate products throughout, which is always a bonus!
Our tour started in the museum under the (fake) cocoa tree, where Marisol, our guide, taught us all about where the beans come from.
The cocoa pod flowers are so tiny that they can only be fertilised by mosquitoes and the pods themselves can only grow on the trunk of the tree due to the fact that they need to absorb so much water. The pods are very large compared to the size of the tree, and they come in all different colours. In fact, the flavour of the beans inside varies dependent on the colour of the pod!
Once the pods have been harvested and the beans removed, they are left to ferment. In the case of the Choco Museo they leave their beans in wooden boxes covered with banana leaves.
Then the beans are removed to begin the drying process. This is where the beans are spread out over the ground (on a cover!) so that they can dry in the sun.
After the beans are dry they are packed up into jute sacks and sent all over the world.
Cocoa is produced mainly along the equator in South America, Africa and South East Asia. However, Europe is by far the largest consumer of chocolate, with Switzerland eating on average a whopping 119 100g bars per person per year! To be honest the UK wasn’t far behind at 97 100g bars! Shocking behaviour obviously….
We then tried some raw cocoa beans from all across Peru. The flavour of the beans alter from area to area, for example, one had hints of red wine and another of coffee.
The beans that the Choco Museo Miraflores use are from an area in northern Peru called San Martín, located in part of the Amazon Rainforest. When eaten raw they’re slightly bitter in taste – which I’m pretty sure is the same with all cocoa beans when raw – but with a smoothness to them too.
Beans are difficult to peel when raw, so we took a few handfuls to toast them over the flames in a special earthenware pot.
This is the way they would have done it in the past, but now this process is completed on a much larger scale using machines. I look like a pro, no?
Once the beans started to smell like melted chocolate and began to pop like popcorn then we knew that they were ready to peel.
We separated the beans, putting the shells in the teapot ready make cocoa tea and the insides in the pestle and mortar ready to be crushed to a paste.
We made the tea by adding sugar (to taste) to the shells of the beans in the teapot and topping it up with hot water. Nothing more. Simple and so ridiculously tasty. It was warm and comforting like a herbal tea but the flavour was like a hot chocolate.
After a cup, or three, of tea, we proceeded to get a great arm workout by grinding our beans in the stone mortar until a fine, sticky paste was made (again, this is done by machine now!) . You do not need to add any water at all because the beans have natural oils in them. These oils first come out of the bean in the roasting process and then more so in the grinding.
After a good 5-10 minutes our paste was ready. Then, we were taught the recipe for the original hot chocolate from the eras before the Spanish had conquered.
Hot water, our 100% chocolate paste, honey, chilli powder, and paprika or achiote. The original recipe called for blood but we decided to leave that out today and instead use paprika to give the same colour!
We mixed the ingredients using two jugs and then sieved it into small cups to remove any large chunks. It was very different to the hot chocolate of nowadays but I loved the heat that the chilli brought to it.
Using the remainder of our paste, we made the Conquistadors version of hot chocolate, which is almost exactly what the Peruvians have today. This time we used hot milk, our 100% chocolate paste, sugar, and whole cinnamon & clove. The spices were heated with the milk, so that their flavours could be infused. All the ingredients were then mixed together using a tool that looked a little like a large muddler that you might use in cocktail making.
This chocolate was lovely. Warm, creamy, sweet with a hint of those spices. I normally dislike Peruvian hot chocolate because they have the habit of using evaporated milk instead of fresh milk, but this one (using whole, regular milk) was just delicious.
We then took a look at the Choco Museo’s very own manufacturing process. Once they have their chocolate paste, they mix it in a machine for 22 hours with the other ingredients that make up each of the 3 types of chocolate.
This is an approximate of the amount of ingredients that go into their bars:
Bitter (dark) chocolate is 70% chocolate (possibly including 10% cocoa butter) and 30% sugar
Milk chocolate is about 22% chocolate, 20% milk powder, 35% sugar and 23% cocoa butter.
White chocolate is 35% cocoa butter, 43% sugar and 22% milk powder
They then choose a chocolate and temper it using a marble slab. This process is very important to make sure the chocolate stays crisp and shiny and that the oils don’t separate and give a white marbling effect through the chocolate.
Then they pour the chocolate into moulds and mix in the different flavours or toppings!
And this is just what we did.
We chose a mould and then, using some bitter chocolate, we filled them up and added an array of flavours and mix-ins.
I chose about 6 different options including powdered ginger, toasted kiwicha and quinoa (both are Peruvian grains), and oreo. Obviously not all in the same chocolate!
They were then transferred to the fridge/freezer to set whilst we waited.
This gave us time to taste some of the Choco Museo’s house-made chocolate jam and cacao liquers, all with different flavourings.
The Chocolate, Mango & Maracuya jam was spectacular; in fact I need to stock up on some of this! The liquer is made by infusing pisco with the cocoa bean shells and an extra chosen ingredient, and my favourite was the coca infused liquer, Incredible.
You can buy the bottles of liquer full sized or in a mini present sized bottle, which is perfect if you lack luggage space on your flight home or just can’t decide on your favourite!
I then had a little time to browse the on-site shop which sells all manner of chocolate products, from their chocolate bars to chocolate shampoo and other cocoa butter beauty products.
I can absolutely recommend the pecan chocotejas, which come wrapped in different patterned wrappers and therefore perfect for little gifts.
Also available to buy are bags of toasted beans ready for you to separate and use…..
….or you can just buy bags of the shells to make your tea with or infuse your own homemade liquors.
There is also a cafe onsite serving a lot of chocolate baked goods (and even fondue), but also lunchtime snacks too like sandwiches etc. I would loved to have sat and indulged, but during those last 2 hours I had tried so much chocolate I just couldn’t manage it. I know, so unusual!
Once our chocolates were ready, we had them wrapped in little cellophane bags and tied with ribbon ready to take home.
Mine tasted spectacular…naturally!
P.S. If you book your course, try to ask for Marisol, she was fantastic and speaks both English and Spanish.
Choco Museo Miraflores – Calle Berlin 375, Miraflores
You can visit the Choco Museo Miraflores for free and have a look at the shop, museum and production area, however the workshops cost extra and should be booked ahead. My workshop ‘Beans to Bar’ was priced at S/70 (S/50 for kids aged 8-12) at the time of attendance in 2015. Prices for workshops in Miraflores can be found here.
There are a number of other branches of Choco Museo throughout Peru and internationally. Check their locations here.
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