The Kids Cooking with Cacao…
DIY Cocoa Tea and Inca Hot Chocolate
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner—and a totally unplanned day to fill while in Lima, Peru—we took our boys to the Cocoa Museum for a class called “Beans to Bar.” Upon our arrival, I tasted their cocoa tea which is supposed to be great for altitude sickness as well as digestion without causing the jittery edge caffeine normally does. I had drank cocoa tea for the three days while we were in Cusco and Machu Picchu to help me manage the high altitudes! What a relief.
The children took the class while the moms helped and, of course, learned a few important new things along the way. For example:
One cacao tree produces about 40 pods—the big fruit-like looking thing hanging on the tree. Each pod contains about 20 to 60 beans; 100 beans are needed to make one bar of chocolate. After opening the pod, the beans are placed in a wooden box and left to ferment for approximately 3 to 9 days. Then, the beans are left to dry under the sun for three sunny days. But here’s the fun part!
The kids started their class at this point in the bar-making process. The beans were roasted for roughly 15 minutes until they started to make crackling sounds. (See the pictures for an informative visual story.)
Next, the shells had to be separated from the nibs. This was the children’s favorite part; it took quite some time to accomplish. But it was a perfect hands-on activity. The shells are used for brewing tea while the nibs are mortared down into a buttery paste to be used for making chocolate. The kids also loved making the paste by grinding the nibs in a circular motion. It did take some muscle power though. My oldest son truly loved this! When the process was complete, there were shells in one bowl and nibs turned into a paste in another.
We placed nearly one cup of shells in a pitcher, then added boiling water with one teaspoon of sugar and stirred the mixture for a minute. After straining to remove the shells, we poured our cocoa tea into a mug and sipped. Ooh la la…just delicious!
If you want to pep up the cocoa tea…
Next we made a tea from the cocoa paste. We added one cup of cocoa paste, 1½ tablespoons of honey, 2 teaspoons of chili spice and ½ teaspoon of Achiote spice (for its red color) to a pitcher with two cups of boiling water. It’s mixed by pouring the liquid from one container to another many times until the tea cools down a bit—usually about one to two minutes—then strained and served. I loved this version but the kids didn’t like the spice.
And then we learned how to make the first “hot chocolate” ever devised; it’s called Mayan or Incan hot cocoa.
We added 1 teaspoon cloves, ½ liter of milk and a few cinnamon sticks to a sauce pan, and then heated it to a low boil and set it aside. We placed 4 teaspoons of sugar and about 1½ cups of cocoa paste in a pitcher and then used a “molinillo”—a Mexican turned wooden whisk—to combine the sugar and cocoa paste. Then we poured the warmed milk, cloves and cinnamon mixture into the pitcher and again used the molinillo to combine everything together. And voila…you’ve created a most delicious hot chocolate!
While we made this delightful drink in tropical 80 degree weather, I definitely plan to make it at home…especially since it will warm us up during this particularly frigid winter! I even bought the cocoa shells to make the tea at home. If you want to try to replicate our experience, you can buy the cocoa beans right here in the States and then make it with your kids. The Cocoa Museum also sells their products online at http://www.chocomuseo.com/english/online-store/.