My last post on making homemade chocolate reminded me of when I had a go at making chocolate from scratch. Back in 2015 my mother Gill and I travelled through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize and we visited a chocolate shop in San Ignacio, Belize for the full chocolate making experience. It is a lot more intensive that when starting from a kit!
Next stop is the A’Jaw Chocolate shop – it was a bit hard to find but definitely worth a visit. It is owned by a local family who have relatives further south where the cocoa is grown. They have only been operating for 5 months and are trying to grow their business. For USD12 you can get a 45 minute chocolate making experience. Our hostess Elida shows us how it is done. It is her husband’s family who have the background in cocoa and she has had to learn the skills. In Ke’iche, cocoa is known as kakawa. We get to participate as well: the chocolate beans have already been extracted and roasted – once a fruit is opened they have to be used within 24 hours or they will go mouldy. The beans are encased in a white pulp that you can eat (and are good in smoothies too). The beans can also be fermented in banana leaves to produce a stronger flavour.
We help to remove the thin shell from the cocoa beans (more difficult than it looks); then the bowl is shaken and ‘blown’ to remove any remaining shell. Then they are rolled on the traditional ‘mortar and pestle’ to grind the beans. This is repeated many times until it forms a thick, dark, shiny paste – this is 100% cocoa and is very bitter to the taste. We try some dissolved in hot water and have to add sugar/honey to taste. Elida then adds cinnamon and allspice to change the flavour and we try it again as a drink – of course learning how nutritious this is! There is still cocoa paste left at the end so Elida adds more sugar for us and puts it into moulds for us to take away. She said that 100% chocolate doesn’t melt but I have a very melted lump (in a plastic bag) in my bag when I get back to the hotel.