The Chocolate Experience was hosted by Soleil - La Casa del Cacao (House of Cocoa). It was a cute cafe near a popular marketplace, the National Theater, the National Museum, the Jade Archaeological Museum, and the National Cathedral. It was the ideal location for tourists who want to see it all.
We were warmly greeted and guided to our classroom where we were taught the history, varieties, care, and process to transform the cacao fruit into the beans and eventually into chocolate. As part of the experience, we took cacao beans grown in Costa Rica, crushed them, removed the shells, ground the beans into nubs, then into a paste, which we cooked and make into our own chocolate bars. It was an incredible process to see and taste.
Afterwards, we ate in the cafe, which served the most delicious homemade crepes.
The entire family loved the experience, learned so much, and now we have our own homemade chocolate bars to show for it.
An excellent lesson on cacao:
Crushing the cacao beans:
Separating the shells from the nibs:
You can blow the 'chaff' away from the nibs by tossing up the nibs
or you can put the nibs through this machine that blows it away for you
you're left with just nibs
Grinding the cacao nibs:
The nibs go through the grinder twice. The heat and pressure release the cocoa butter, which turns the powder into a paste, ready to be cooked.
Cooking the cacao nibs, mixing in vanilla and water (and we chose to include sugar and milk in our chocolate):
The finished product:
We used some of the left over chocolate to make Cacahuatl, a Pre-Columbian chocolate drink which we drank out of hollowed-out fruit shells.
Lunch in the cafe afterwards was delicious: