Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chocolate Plantation

Today we traveled again to Tirimbina.  Last night we visited for a bat tour.   No post on that yet, I was so tired that I was asleep on the bus ride home.  Tirimbina is a lodge and preserve with nature tours and hikes, but also, a sustainable chocolate plantation.  So today we returned to learn more about the process of making chocolate.  Best tour ever! 
This is the cocoa plant.  You can see the large seed pods, not yet ripe.  They grow in the shade of the forest on do not require any deforestation or intensive land preparation.  
 When we made it to the lecture site, there were several informational posters explaining the history of chocolate.
 Michael was our main guide today, he asked for a volunteer to help crack open the seed pod.  Nicole from the California group was the first volunteer.
 Inside the pod are lots of seeds covered in slime.  He had us each taste one.  Not very appetizing in my opinion, but all part of the ancient and traditional chocolate making process.
 The saliva from our mouths was providing the initial starter culture for the fermentation process that is necessary to turn the raw beans into cocoa.  Here are the stages in the fermentation and drying process.
 The dried beans are then roasted and peeled.
 The roasted beans crumble into chocolate nibs which are then ground with a warm stone to help melt the cocoa butter.  Ellen volunteered to grind, but the stone was too hot, so she used a paper towel to protect her hands.  To grind the nibs completely by stone would take more than two hours, so Michael pulled out a hand cranked grinder to speed the process along.
 Then he mixed the ground nibs with brown sugar and cinnamon.  So good!
 Hot water was then added and Giovanni poured the cocoa was poured back and forth to make it frothy and light.
 Ryan thought it was delicious and went back for more.  The ground chocolate can be crystalized into chocolate rock and then melted in a double boiler.  We all sampled spoonfuls of the liquid chocolate.  It was heavenly.  There are no pictures of that, our hands were all full of chocolate.
 Finally, Michael discussed how lecithin can be added to make the chocolate creamier as it is turned into bars.  There was solid chocolate to end the lesson, both milk and dark.  So tasty.  I have a plan as to how I can turn the tour into a lesson on fermentation.  Usually we talk about lactic acid and possibly cheese or yogurt.  Wouldn't chocolate be so much more fun though?  The prezi is already running through my head.
There was no time to work on it today though.  We had the afternoon to finish our project so that we can be ready to present tomorrow.  I can't believe how quickly these last two weeks have flown by!

1 comment:

  1. YUM!! Chocolate lessons could be a tasty addition to your curriculum. :o))