It was Kevin’s and my last time through Antigua Guatemala, our third since the start of our trip and the beginning of our search for surf.
With only two days left before my brother was to fly back to Canada and we thought heading back to the beautiful city of Antigua would be a nice way to finish things off rather than spending any time in Guatemala City, a place renowned for being very dangerous.
In addition to just lounging in Antigua’s central park again we had some surprisingly amazing and cheap Chinese food at Restaurante La Estrella just a block from the park. The best part of our final days however was a visit to the Choco Museo.
What first seemed like a kitschy tourist activity turned out to be a most informative cultural experience. The Choco Museo’s Bean-to-Bar Workshop starts with brief introduction to the history of the cultivation and processing of cacao bean by the ancient Mayans and later by Europeans.
Some of the points I found most intriguing were:
- Cacao beans were actually used as a currency due to their desirability.
- The Forastero cacao plant makes up more than 95% of the worlds chocolate production due to its hardiness.
- Chocolate is composed primarily from two components, cacao powder and cacao butter. A large portion of modern chocolate has the butter removed to make makeup and similar products and is replaced by soy butter…ewww
Following the information session we began the process of actually preparing the beans for consumption by roasting, peeling, and then grinding them. With the guidance of the staff, our group then prepared three separate drinks; a cacao tea, Mayan hot chocolate, and final a Spanish hot chocolate.
Cacoa Tea Ingredients: Cacao Husks, sugar, and cacao beans
Mayan Hot Chocolate Ingredients: Ground up cacao beans, honey, chili pepper, black pepper, and milk or water
Spanish hot Ingredients: Ground up cacao beans, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom or anise, black pepper, chili pepper, and milk or water.
I found all of the drinks to be rather sweet, but it was nonetheless very interesting how each was produced in a very different manner from similar products. You can find a wide variety of hot chocolate recipes at this website.
The final portion of the class involved taking prepared melted chocolate and producing our own chocolate with provided molds and a host of ingredients. Unfortunately making the melted chocolate on our own was out of the question due to the two days or so it needs for preparation.
If you’re interested in making chocolates from your own cacao, a class at Utopia Eco Hotel in Semuc Champey does just that.
Even though I’ve made tons of chocolates in the past (seriously, we made 1000 one Christmas) it was a fun addition to the experience and makes the cost (180Q, about $20) more than worthwhile as they send you home with what they say is about 70Q worth of chocolate. Not forgetting of course that the chocolate is of your own design.
Traveling With Family
I have to say that regardless of what we did in the three weeks he was here, traveling with my brother has been an awesome experience. We had a lot of time to reconnect and learn where our lives had gone in the years since we had no longer been living in the same home.
Despite having seen him for short bursts occasionally over the last few years, I don’t think we’d ever really spent this much time together. I think I found it most interesting how we had each grown from the people we had come to know growing up. I would even say I look up to my little brother now, he’s taught me a lot about taking life in stride and for that I’m eternally grateful.
I actually met another traveling brother duo in Semuc Champey, one was on a world trip similar to myself and the other just for a few weeks. They echoed the same sentiment that this was the first time they had ever had to really get to know each other and it was fantastic.
If you get the opportunity to travel with family and reconnect I highly recommend it, I couldn’t have anticipated in advance the riches it has brought to my life.
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