Ixcacao – Making Chocolate

After our tour of Juan’s jungle farm, we drove back to the chocolate “factory” to make our own chocolate. Of course, we had to have a few samples first.

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Chocolate samples (ginger, cinnamon, spicy, salt, orange, cardamom, dark) with cacao pod in the foreground

Juan cut open a cacao pod and we all tried a cacao bean. These were soft and gooey and the outer “shell” was white. They were semi sweet and had a slight citrus flavour.

Juan explained that these were fermented for about 5 days, then dried in the sun, and finally roasted. In order for us to make our chocolate, we had to crack these hardened beans and remove the thin outer shell to reveal the nibs. This was easier said than done and we ended up with a fair amount of shell fragments mixed in with the nibs. In ancient times, these were all placed in a bowl and were tossed repeatedly in the air which separated the lighter shell fragments from the heavier nibs. Today, fans or hair driers are used to separate the shell fragments.

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Separating the shells from the cacao nibs

The cacao nibs are then ground and heated by rubbing a smaller basalt rock against a larger carved flat one. This process softens the nibs by heating the cocoa butter contained in the nibs which produces a paste.

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Tina grinds cacao beans until they melt into a paste

The 100% cacao paste is a little bitter to our tastes, so Juan added about 20% brown sugar to produce an 80% cacao content paste. We then put this paste in molds and refrigerated while we had lunch.

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Add 20% brown sugar for 80% cocoa


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Preparing the mold

Lunch, featuring chocolate chicken, was delicious! The chicken was cooked in a sauce that had cacao beans; however, there was no real chocolatey taste. Juan said that cooking the chicken in this sauce keeps the chicken juicy – indeed this was the moistest chicken we have had in Belize, and we have had a fair amount of chicken!

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We finished our tour by having a look at the “modern” techniques used to make chocolate and also were treated to a  little music in the gift shop.

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This machine takes the place of the grinding stones


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Musical entertainment in the gift shop


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No additives – all the chocolate needs to be refrigerated to prevent melting

This was a family post as Dad as the main writer.

4 thoughts on “Ixcacao – Making Chocolate

  1. That is so cool! Which flavour of chocolate did you like best Rachel? I didn’t realize that the cocoa pods grew so large. I saw some growing in Costa Rica but they were much smaller. Can hardly wait to hear all your stories when you get home. It will be hard to pick your best memory! Miss you xoxoxo Love Aunt Sarah and Uncle Andre


  2. Wow! That sounds like a really neat day.
    I would love to try the “chocolate chicken”. It sounds delicious.
    I also really like Juan’s t-shirt that says Chocolate will save the Rainforest.
    Is that a marimba you were playing?
    Love you,
    Aunt Karen and Uncle Cam


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