Chocolate comes from the seed of a gourd that hangs from a tree and gets it most of its aroma and taste from a fermentation process. The seeds are left in a covered box that allows the seed coating to begin to break down into a gooey mess that starts to ferment. It eventually dries out and forms a husk that when rubbed gives of the primordial aroma we know and love. Roasting takes it one step further and when the process is done, the seeds are cracked to get rid of the husk, ground and stirred for hours until the final molten result forms chocolate as we more or less know it. Further processing can separate the cocoa butter from the mass and thus forming powdered cocoa used of baking and hot chocolate. Remixing various quantities of cocoa butter into the cocoa powder results in chocolate bars and candy.You can buy cocoa mass from large processors in the US and Europe, but it’s a lot more fun to see and taste at the source.
You can take a great tour at El Quetzal del Mindo in Ecuador where they show you the entire process and then let you sample the wares in their restaurant.
We were staying at the El Monte Ecolodge nearby the town of Mindo when we visited El Quetzal. The main attraction in this area is the cloud forest habitat that hides a cock o’ the rock lek where you can witness the male bird’s elaborate courtship behavior. Undoubtedly one of the best things to do, but it’s hard to beat chocolate after an early morning trek though the forest and mountains.
If you have an interest in visiting, contact me.