Guatemalan chocolate isn’t just delicious: it’s also the basis of one of the coolest activities I did while I was in Antigua.
If you’re a chocoholic, buckle your seatbelt because you’re in for a delicious ride. I spent some time in Antigua recently, and while I loved the beautiful architecture and loads of sights to see (more on that later!), one fabulous activity completely overtook everything else as my favorite: making chocolate!
What am I talking about? Well, Antigua has a Choco Museo, through which you can either visit a chocolate plantation, take a chocolate-making class or just shop around for all of their really cool chocolate things. I originally wanted to take the trip to the chocolate plantation, but they told me the tour didn’t run unless at least three people were going and there hadn’t been that much interest lately (which was a bummer!). So I “settled” (or so I thought) for taking the class. Boy was I in for a huge, awesome surprise!
When you walk into the Choco Museo (depending on which direction you walk in from, as there are a lot of doors), you’ll find yourself looking at either a gorgeous glass display case (like the one below) of chocolate or a store where you will find every chocolate making product imaginable.
The class begins with a check-in at the front desk, at which you pay the fee if you haven’t already (about $25 US for a two hours class – which is TOTALLY worth it as you will see). After that, you walk over to their training table, which is a large marble countertop, and meet the instructor. My instructor, Raul, was the coolest! He knew SO much about the chocolate process and was funny and personable and super friendly.
The class begins with a walk over to the “history” room (yes, this museum of chocolate has a “history” room – how cool is that!!) and from there, Raul told us all about how this whole “chocolate” thing became a thing! We learned about the history of cacao, how it was first used by the Mayans and first mixed, and how it was processed then, as well as how it is processed today.
Raul showed us the chocolate at each stage of the process. And we got to hold and touch the different forms of the cacao!
Then, the real fun began! Raul took us back to the molding table and we began our chocolate experimentation! After explaining to us that REAL chocolate, GOOD chocolate, should only have two ingredients: cocoa and sugar, we got started. (Side note: have you ever seen a chocolate bar in the States that only has cocoa and sugar? Probably not, right? This is because in the States, we split the cocoa chunk at the end into cocoa butter and cocoa powder and then put it back together, often with other, bullshit ingredients – but there’s no need for this!!! The further-unprocessed cocoa and sugar are just perfect!)
Raul gave us our luscious bowls of chocolate and we got to it. Since we wouldn’t have had time to actually make our chocolate from the pod onwards, we just received a bowl of delicious chocolate and went from there. We picked out little molds and got a slew of additional ingredients: cayenne pepper, mint, black pepper, orange peel, sprinkles, ginger…I used every single one! It was a fun little process, creating my mini chocolate “bars.”
After we made our chocolates, we popped them in the fridge to cool. While they were doing that, we learned even more about the ancient ways the cacao bean used to be used! We made chocolate “tea” (with the husks of the pod) and the old Mayan chocolate drink (spicy water). We even got to mash up our own cocoa!
At the end of the class, we all thanked Raul for his amazing knowledge and skills, and we got to pick up our bags of chocolate, which had been wrapped and tied for us (mine had a name misspelling mishap, but oh well!). Sadly, my chocolate did not turn out awesome – but this was my own mistake, not the fault of the class. Here’s what happened: I tried to put some sea salt on one piece of my chocolate, but I put too much. Okay, not bad, I initially thought, but it was bad because then the extra sea salt got everywhere in my bag! Lol!
Overall, it was a REALLY great day and I highly recommend the class and the Choco Museo if you happen to be in Antigua and want to know the history of chocolate!
P.S. Click over to my personal Facebook album to check out more photos of the chocolate shop and my time in Antigua!