Processing Secrets of Chocolate & Preparing Cacao the Maya Way

When the manufacturer receives the beans, they will probably combine several types from different regions and types of cacao, like coffee producers do. This is because the cacao from different plantations and even trees from the same plantation dont always have the same taste and aroma.

In addition manufacturing procedures vary from one plant to another, timing temperature, proportions and processing are highly guarded secrets.

Each processing step is controlled under the strictest sanitary conditions; the seeds are fumigated and placed in a clean, cool and airy location where they cant absorb any other flavors or odors. They are then sieved and cleaned which removes the pulp, pod pieces or any other unwanted waste that may have stayed in the beans during the drying process.

The next procedure is weighing and blending them according to size, and then they are roasted in large cylinders that rotate at a temperature of 250 to 350 degrees for between 30 minutes and two hours. This depends on the type of beans and the formula the manufacturer uses; this is the stage when they first begin to have the aroma and flavor of chocolate.

After roasting the beans are allowed to cool and the seeds are shelled, this leaves only the meat which is called the nibs, nibs average 50 to 54% cocoa butter which is the natural vegetable fat of cacao. The seeds are then ground between large stone and heavy steel disks, called conching. This generates enough natural heat to liquefy the cocoa butter which is then removed.

Removal of the cocoa butter leaves a thick dark paste called chocolate liquor, when molded this is unsweetened chocolate or bakers chocolate. If this is carried one step further and all of the cocoa butter is removed and it is ground into a fine powder this is called cocoa powder.

Preparing Cacao the Maya Way:
According to studies the Maya had many ways to prepare foods with cacao, some of these studies have come from the examination of hieroglyphic texts found on their vases. The Spanish Maya dictionary from the 17th century shows ordinary chocolate being called chacau haa, which means hot water or hot chocolate, (in Maya, haa can mean either water or chocolate.)

Tzune was a drink made of cacao, maize and sapote seeds, this drink were probably made only for special occasions. Saca was a gruel made of cooked maize (corn) water and cacao, this ordinary chocolate, as shown by its name was drunk hot.

The Lacandon May at one time were a vast group, but now number only a couple of hundred, they now live in what remains of one of the great rain forest in the past. Even though their culture is dying, the Lacandon Maya still retain much of their past cultural traditions, these traditions include many of their culinary preparations.

The Lacandon Maya grow their own cacao, preparing two types of drinks from it, one of these drinks is for ordinary consumption and the other is prepared for them to offer to their gods. The contemporary highland Maya of Guatemala had innumerable ways of preparing cacao as a beverage, many of these used ingredients the Spaniards brought to them including ane sugar, cinnamon, black pepper and rice.

Some of the ingredients they used from their own kitchens were honey, maize, chilies and allspice. The most common drink of the Guatemala Maya was called batido, which would translate into frappe if asked for in an American soda fountain.

In all of their recipes, the cacao bean is first roasted then ground; at this point the recipes begin to vary greatly. They may include being lowered into a pot of water, boiling/or tepid, beating with the hand or with a wooden stick, spices are added and a variety of drinks are produced.

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About The Author, Stephen Campbell
Stephen C Campbell is a Business Consultant, Internet
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