If you’re a chocolate lover, you’re in for a treat from us today! We had one of the sweetest Guatemala chocolate making experiences in our time at Semuc Champey!

We stayed in a hostel called Utopia, which had its own supply of cacao beans growing in the fields surrounding it. One of the great tours they offered was a few hours learning how to make chocolate from cacoa nibs!

Not one to turn down the chance to learn something (and eat some chocolate!), we signed up to make our very own delicious treats from scratch.

How to make Guatemala chocolate from cacao nibs

Obviously chocolate is big business these days. But as it is with many things that are commoditised, the original reasons for eating it have been toned down and dulled to obliteration.

Chocolate you see, is bad for you. But what about dark chocolate? Isn’t that less bad for you? And what about high percentage cacao chocolate, isn’t that supposed to be good for you? Especially if you use it as a cooking ingredient? It’s all a bit confusing isn’t it?

guatemala chocolate nib

As we wandered around the chocolate pods that house the cacao beans hanging from the trees, we were struck as to how big and heavy they are. After picking our pod to work with, we went inside to learn more.

cacoa nib guatemala

John and his mother were incredibly enlightening on the process of making chocolate, and indeed all the benefits. The first job was to roast the beans, to make the removal of the husk easier.

roasting the cacao nibs

Following this it was time for the painstaking task of peeling each individual bean to get at the goodness inside. As a side note, the husks that are discarded are actually very good for making tea, something we tried and agreed as a delicious little bonus.

cacao nib shell
dehusked cacao nibs
making guatemala chocolate

Blending to make Guatemala Chocolate

Once dehusked, it was time for the blending of the beans. This is where things got really interesting. In the end we blended the beans six times, following a process of blending and heating. We did this six times until the consistency was just right.

making chocolate from cacao nibs

The first time the beans were blended, they simply looked like they had been finely chopped. After heating though and returning them to the blender, the natural oils started to release. This ever so slightly brought the mixture together.

A little sugar was added at this point, and the mixture returned to the heat before being blended again. We had no idea how much of the natural oils were housed in the cacao pods. These natural oils are generally removed when creating mainstream chocolate.

You see, the natural oils which make chocolate good for you, are stripped out as they do not help when it comes to transporting chocolate. If the natural oils were kept in, the chocolate would have to be stored, transported and displayed in much cooler temperatures. This makes the costs exorbitant and unrealistic.

So you take the only good part of chocolate away, and replace it with more sugar! Genius, no wonder people are confused.

laura making chocolate

After this process of blending and heating, all of the natural oils had been released. It was time to create our mini chocolate treats. In front of us lay our chocolate, and everything from nuts, to coconut, chilli, ginger, marshmallows and mint.

spooning chocolate into shapes

With our work for the day done, our chocolates went into the fridge to set. We went tubing down the river for a few hours. When we returned they were ready, and boy were we excited!

chocolate setting

Tasting Our Guatemala Chocolate Treats

At this point you’re probably expecting a photo of the final outcome. Well, there isn’t one. In our haste to taste, we neglected to take a photo of our final masterpieces! The best we can do is this!

The chocolates were delicious, unlike anything we had tasted before. They had the sweetness of milk chocolate, but with a hint of the bitterness of dark chocolate. We devoured them in a few minutes, sharing them with our fellow travellers on the balcony in Utopia. 

The next day we would make the long journey north, where we would visit the famous Tikal National Park. But for now we would spend one last evening in Utopia, sheltering from a fierce tropical thunderstorm that crashed down around us.

It was the perfect ending to our time in the Guatemalan countryside.

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