Mantay and the Chocolate Factory

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group of young women sit on stairs in chocolate museum

As the 2010-2011 program year winds down, we’ve been busy planning special activities for the girls as a thank you for their enthusiastic participation throughout the year. Luckily, all the trips leave little time for dwelling on our departure in a few short weeks. A new museum recently opened near the Plaza de Armas called the ChocoMuseo. In addition to showcasing Peru’s evolving role in worldwide chocolate production, the museum offers workshops in which participants get to make their own tasty concoctions. After participating in the workshop ourselves, we realized the girls at Casa Mantay, a safe home for adolescent mothers, could learn a lot from the process while also offering a fun and constructive change of pace.

instructor shows cacao beans in a drawer

The workshop instructor shows us the cacao beans.

The girls are responsible for communal cooking within the Casa, so we hoped the workshop would speak to their skills and interests. This Wednesday we found ourselves not in San Jeronimo for sports class, but elbow deep in cocoa beans, mortar and pestle!

Mantay girls grind the cacao beans to make cacao paste.

Grinding the cacao beans to make cacao paste.

The instructor led the group through the growing process of the cacao tree, and then onto production. The girls tried their hand at roasting and shelling the beans, followed by grinding the nibs into a fine cacao paste. Their hard work was finally rewarded with taste tests of various chocolate beverages – tea, coco as consumed by the Mayans, and chocolate milk as we know it today. The best part of the workshop came at the end. Equipped with molds, myriad powders, nuts and candies to mix, and a bowl of liquid chocolate, the girls whipped up their own unique chocolates.

The trip proved to be an educational, engaging experience for the Mantay girls. Many thanks to the ChocoMuseo for generously agreeing to a discounted price for the girls. If you find yourself in Cusco, be sure to check out this chocolate museum, shop, factory, café, and workshop in Cusco’s center.

Striking a pose in front of the Plaza de Armas fountain.

Striking a pose in front of the Plaza de Armas fountain.

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