Day 4; Bate, bate chocolate

20141213_113054A day of exploration and a little bit of learning.  We went to the Mansion de Chocolate and participated in a chocolate workshop – always a subject close to a girl`s heart!  In the course of the two hour session we learned all about how the cocoa beans grow and then we made chocolate drinks and a bar of our own chocolate.
Ishmael from Israel was the chocolate chef – what a job! – and he was so excitable and enthusiastic that we couldn`t help but also be excited and enthusiastic!
He started off telling us about the cocoa plant and how important it was as currency to the indigenous people. Apparently, 10 cocoa beans could be exchanged for a woman, 100 for a monkey and 1000 for a snake! It fruits twice a year but the better crop comes off the second fruiting, it produces 80 to 100 pods and each pod holds 40 to 60 seeds. They are ripe when they turn from green to yellow but once they turn red they are over ripe. To see if the pod is ripe you shake or tap it and it should sound hollow and the seeds will rattle.
Next stop was roasting which we did over an open fire. Ishmael had us all dancing round the fire stirring the beans as they popped and crackled singing “Bate, bate chocolate”. Once they were roasted – they changed colour – we had to extract the beans from their shell. They were still a little hot but a quick pinch and twist and the shells came away easily. We reflected on what a satisfying activity it was but then considered that if you had to do it every day the chore might lose its charm!
Grinding came next and all armed with a stone pestle and mortar and a handful of beans we set to grinding the brands into a paste. We added no water but the humidity can account for about 20% of water in the beans which is why they are ground to a paste and not to a powder. The results of our labours were pooled and Ishmael made three drinks;
Mayan hot chocolate – cacao, water, cinnamon, honey, pepper
Aztec hot chocolate – cacao, water, cinnamon, chilli, honey, pepper, cardamon, vanilla
European hot chocolate – cacao, milk, sugar, cinnamon, star anise
We all had our favourite but I preferred the Aztec drink, it was quite earthy but had a bite at the end. As we stirred the drinks we all had to sing another song; Bate, bate, chocolate, estedad, estedad,………. He made us sing the second part on our own as we stirred and Charlotte won the prize for doing it the best!
After that we made our own chocolate. Ishmael had prepared the chocolate as normally it takes several hours to spin. We chose our own additions though and I went for an Aztec theme and added salt, pepper, chilli, cinnamon, cacao chips and chopped cashews. Muy rica! He finished off as all good teachers do with a quiz to see what we had remembered. It was quite nerve wracking but everyone passed with flying colours.

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