When it comes to chocolate, everything started in Mexico. It was there in this tropical region that the cacao tree convinced its first chocoholics among the Maya people. Once fermented, roasted and ground, its beans form a thick paste which is then heated and transformed into creamy bars of dark chocolate or delicious desserts. Today, the art of chocolate has spread to all four corners of the world with very different interpretations. Come with us as we trace the origins of chocolate through the regions that produce it.
Cacao is also the name of a tiny village in the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The hamlet owes its name to the large number of cacao trees that grow there. At 15 metres high, some of these record-breaking trees are almost twice the size of their African cousins. Cacao is used as a remedy rather than for its sweeter alternatives. From this centuries-old medicinal practice, the inhabitants are particularly fond of its oil which proves to have excellent healing properties.
A few hours away from Mexico City by car is Oaxaca and one very special street, Calle Mina. As you wander down the street, there are specialist chocolate shops all around, tickling your sense of smell. After your choccy purchases, stop off at one of the city's restaurants and try their mole, a chocolate sauce found nowhere else on the planet, served with braised chicken.
So, what is Madagascar's chocolate claim to fame? The three main varieties of cacao all grow on the island – a rare occurrence indeed! In the Millot plantations in Ambanja, nothing has changed for over a century: harvesting is still done by hand and transport by zebu-pulled cart. There, quality is paramount; the company is justly famous and all its cacao beans are sold to the great chocolatiers of the world before they are even harvested. Let the remarkable owner, Mado, take you through this lush landscape on a guided tour, specially designed to reveal some of the most traditional chocolate know-how – you will be glad you did!
Finally, if you want to learn even more about chocolate sweet, take yourself off to Puerto Limón, to the east of San José in Costa Rica. Plunge deep into the plantations on a cacao trail with your guide and learn all about this precious bean and its fascinating history.
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