We have been on two chocolate tours since we arrived in Monteverde. The first at Don Juan’s was interesting and interactive however the second at Cabure Chocolates was fascinating!
The difference is Bob the owner of Cabure (his wife runs a very good Argentinian restaurant at the same location). Bob has a passion for doing things right, a real artesan chocolatier.
First a bit of history and trivia:
- Cacao was used in beverages as far back as 1900 b.c.
- Cacao beans have been used as currency
- Cacao generally grows from sea level to about 600 meters (just under 2000’)
- The average worker in Ghana earns less than $1000 per year growing, harvesting, and doing the initial processing of the cacao
- Cacao trees are fast growing and begin to bear fruit in less than 2 years
- When the flowers are pollinated, the large hard pod that is formed contains 30-40 cacao beans
- When the seed pods form they are so big and heavy (up to 20” long) that they grow on the trunk of the tree, not branches
OK, now a bit about the process:
When pods are picked, they are cracked open and the seeds removed from the pulp. It is important to do this quickly so that the beans don’t ferment in the pod. The seeds are placed in a box with no oxygen for 2 days, then dumped into a different box with some air holes for 2 days and finally dumped into another box for an additional 2 days. During the time in the boxes, they are not agitated so some seeds are subjected to more oxygen or alkalization than others. After the 6 days, the tannins are reduced and the beans are dried, usually in the sun.
Suffice it to say that it is not an exact science however if you want really good chocolate, you have to be picky about which beans you buy. Bob is very select about his beans.
Once he receives his beans, usually from Africa, he must roast them. Roasting doesn’t take a long time, definitely under an hour. Then the beans are cracked and winnowed so that only the actual beans are used, not the shells.
The beans are then ground. You may have tried some chocolate nubs at a specialty store. Believe me, the ones I tried in Durango were nothing like Bob’s! I hated the ones I had tried previously but his weren’t bad at this stage.
Next the ground beans are centrifuged which causes the oils to be released. At this point, it looks and tastes like chocolate. There are several more steps to get to the final step which is yummy, yummy stuff whether it is a dark chocolate, a milk chocolate, or even “white chocolate” which is actually just cocoa butter, no non-fat cocoa solids in it.
We got to dip marshmallows into the chocolate and let it harden and of course, eat them. They were good, but my favorite is always dark chocolate with sea salt.