I visited a local indigenous family and watched them make chocolate. The Q’eachi’ people harvest the cacao tree and make chocolate to eat and sell to tourists. We bought some chocolate from one family and asked them how they made the chocolate. It was difficult to communicate because only the younger students speak Spanish. But we did receive an invitation for 7 a.m. the following morning.
The key ingredient, cacao, is a fruit that grows on trees. The gourd is about eight inches long. The nuts inside are white, about one-inch long and covered with gelatin. You can suck on them and they taste interesting, but not like chocolate. The nuts are cleaned, dried and roasted. The nuts are roasted in a stone container for about fifteen minutes with constant stirring.
While they are still hot, the nuts are shucked and then ground using a stone rolling pin on a stone basin. As the nuts are finely ground, they release a buttery, brown liquid that looks like melted chocolate. This takes a lot of pressure and time. The ground, liquid chocolate is mixed with sugar, margarine, vegetable oil and vanilla. The mixture is then pressed into plastic trays, left to set and then cut into squares. The squares are wrapped in aluminum foil. The squares are about the size of a typical Hershey bar and are sold for five quetzales or about 60 cents U.S. Usually, girls carry them around in a basket and offer them to tourists.
The chocolate tastes less refined than typical manufactured dark chocolate. When eaten, a bit of the chocolate nut remains after the chocolate has melted. Also because of the wood roasting, the chocolate has a slightly smoked flavor. I really like it and have some in my mouth as I write this post.