How We Became Certified Chocolatiers at Granada’s Choco Museo

How We Became Certified Chocolatiers at Granada’s Choco Museo

Hi, my name is Dana Carmel, and I’m a chocoholic. I’ve been “using” for the majority of my life, and I don’t think that I’ll ever overcome my chocolate addiction – not that I ever want to! Whether it’s in the form of ice cream, candy bars, coffee, cookies, or milk, a chocolate treat can turn my whole world around. Whether I’m happy or sad, chocolate always puts me in a better mood, and when I’m pre-menstrual and inconsolable, I can’t think of a better fix!

So when I came across the Choco Museo as I was researching things to do during our recent jaunt to Granada, Nicaragua, I couldn’t resist the chance to learn how to make chocolate. I had to take part in their ‘Beans to Bar’ workshop which gives participants a hands-on opportunity to transform cacao beans into their very own chocolate bars! So following a busy morning spent exploring an active volcano and Lake Apoyo, shopping for the perfect hammock, and discovering the artistry of a local potter, Jave and I made our way to the Choco Museo a few blocks from our hotel for a late afternoon workshop.

Committed to producing artisanal chocolate in countries where cacao grows, Choco Museo has locations in Peru (Cusco and Lima), Guatemala (Antigua), and the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana and Santo Domingo).

We arrived a bit early for our scheduled workshop, so we had a snack at the onsite café to fill the time.

A yummy nacatamal

Soon enough, we were introduced to our instructor for the day, Ali, who explained that she’s interning at the Choco Museo before she starts university in Managua. Her internship entails teaching the workshops, and I must say that she was a very knowledgeable and engaging teacher. Johanna, who recently moved from Austria to Nicaragua to learn Spanish and to work at the Choco Museo for a year also participated in the workshop with us as she was still learning the ropes.

The banner hanging above us outlined the beans to bar process.

First, Ali explained that in order to enhance the flavor, the cacao beans are fermented for 2-7 days to get rid of the seed coat. To ferment, heaps of beans are laid flat on a dry spot and covered with banana leaves. Next, the beans are dried in the sun for 5-10 days. Then, the beans are roasted which is when our participation in the process kicked in.

As we stirred the beans over the fire, Ali explained that there are three ways to know when the beans have been properly roasted – the color will deepen to a dark brown, the smell will become richer, and the beans will start making a crackling or popping sound like popcorn. The Maya used to dance around the fire as the beans were stirred and roasted chanting, “Baté, baté, chocolaté.”

Soon enough, our beans were fragrant, dark, and crackling, so we moved on to the winnowing process which basically entails removing the shells or skins from the beans.

Post-roasting color
Post-roasting color

Then, we began to grind the beans with a mortar and pestle. While I thought that the goal was to grind them down to a powder, Ali explained that we would actually grind them to the consistency of a paste. I was having some troubles, so one of the other Choco Museo employees stepped in for me and engaged Jave in a little competition to see who could grind the beans the fastest.

Chocolate paste
Chocolate paste

Next, Ali used the paste to make three different types of hot chocolate for us to sample: Maya, Aztec, and European. She explained that the Maya added pimento, cinnamon, honey, and hot water to their chocolate. The Aztecs used all of the same ingredients, except they also added red pepper. When the Europeans got their hands on chocolate, they understandably went nuts for the stuff. However, they opted not to use any pepper or honey and instead added sugar and milk to the mix. We all agreed that the European version of hot chocolate was our favorite since it’s sweeter, and because it’s what we’re all used to.

Finally, it was time to make our chocolate bars, and we had the freedom to add whatever we wanted to our bars! While I added M&Ms to mine and topped it with peanuts, Jave added rum to his – lots of it! Ali told us that we’d have to come back and pick up our packaged bars the next day so that they’d have time to set overnight in the fridge.

And with that, we completed our chocolate-making course with certificates to memorialize our lesson. It’s good to know that in dire circumstances, I now have the know-how to feed my addiction from scratch!

The Verdict: The next day, we picked up our bars and wasted no time to unwrap and munch on them. Mine was divinely rich, and after a few bites, I’d satisfied my craving. Jave’s bar on the other hand was a bit of a disaster as he used entirely too much rum!

Plan Your Visit to the Choco Museo

  • In addition to the ‘Beans to Bar’ workshop, the Choco Museo offers a workshop on how to make chocolate truffles and ganache as well as special workshops covering  a variety of topics including: how to sculpt chocolate, how to make chocolate cupcakes, and how to cook with chocolate or cacao.
  • The ‘Beans to Bar’ workshop was $19/person plus 15% tax.
  • If you have time, take your chocolate-making curiosities a step further by touring a cacao plantation for a day or by participating in a cacao farm stay. The Choco Museo can help you make arrangements.
  • You can purchase gifts in the museum’s store or you can buy their chocolate products online.
  • Contact any of the Choco Museo’s locations to sign up for your workshop or tour of choice.



Are you a chocoholic?

  • Wow, what a detailed explanation of your day. So good it made me hungry!

    • Dana Carmel

      Go get some chocolate! 😉

  • Dana, you and Jave are so lucky! I would love to be able to make own actual chocolate bar from scratch. I would imagine that the aroma just got more and more intense as each step continued along! Now, I want a candy bar….badly! 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      It’s definitely very gratifying to eat a candy bar that you made from scratch.

  • That Tamal looks very Yummy. Maybe they can use a chocolate rub to season the meat. You guys are really behaving like travelers and not just tourists. Culinary adventures are at the top of my list when I travel. Wait until you see Basque food. Don’t forget to use a tripod when doing night photography.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks for the photography tip, Eduardo! Yes, our aim is to always immerse ourselves in the local culture whenever we travel. What better way to do that than to cook with the locals! And I’ve heard great things about Basque food. I can’t wait to make it to Basque country someday!

  • I had no idea that it took so long from getting the beans to making chocolate. I like the idea of adding rum to the chocolate though 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Yeah, the chocolate-making process is time consuming but worth it. And rum is okay as long as you don’t add too much like Jave did because it dries out the chocolate.

  • This is long overdue and I will say it again I have no doubt down the road. Dana and Jave I want to come to Jamaica so Jave can cook for me. The only bummer is that Phoenix couldn’t come with me.

    • Dana Carmel

      Phoenix could come – but Customs would probably quarantine him for a bit! 🙁

  • I once tried chocolate with pepper: very strange. My favourite king of chocolate is called “gianduia” and is a speciality from the city of Turin here in Italy.

    I’d love to attend one of these workshops if one day I get to Nicaragua.

    • Dana Carmel

      The pepper in our hot chocolate was odd because the chocolate is already hot, so adding pepper to it was just too much. I’ll make note of gianduia so that I can try it when in Turin!

  • Live like a local!

  • What a totally fun workshop to attend. A tour is one thing but a hands on experience is another altogether. I like chocolate though it’s not my go to food – but still I’d get a charge out of making my own chocolate bars from scratch.

    • Dana Carmel

      It’s always interesting to see where our food comes from and how to make it – especially foods that we don’t normally make at home. So I guess you’re not a chocoholic?

  • I think I need to get my certificate too.

    • Dana Carmel

      You definitely should, Raymond!

  • We should start a chocaholics anonymous. I’ve always been interested in the process of making chocolate. I stayed on a cacao farm once in Costa Rica and the fruit on the trees look nothing like the end product. Fascinating breakdown, thanks for sharing this one!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, JR. I’d love to visit or even stay at a cacao farm to witness the planting/harvesting process.

  • I am a chocoholic too! What a great experience and an even better souvenir. I’ve toured a cacao farm before but we didn’t get to make it any further than that. This post has got me craving for a chocolate now.

    • Dana Carmel

      Next time I want to go to a cacao farm. I wouldn’t mind doing the farm stay, actually. Glad you enjoyed this post!

  • Ha ha, I think Chris would put too much rum in his chocolate bar too. It’s a man thing I think. 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Men…! 😉

  • First of all, let me say I am a chocoholic as well. If I could, I would eat a whole chocolate every day. I love coffee as well, but only skinny latte :). This is such an amazing experience. It looks complicated indeed, but if you have a go, you can make your own flavored choco!! If I was there, I would lick the table !!!!

    • Dana Carmel

      Haha! Licking the table sounds tempting! The hardest part of making the chocolate was definitely grinding the beans to a paste. But it was so worth it!

  • I’m also a chocoholic and now I must become a certified chocolatier!!!

    Loved this post!


    • Dana Carmel

      You definitely should! And welcome to my chocoholics “support” group! 😉

  • Oooooo, sign me up! I’m a chocoholic as well so this sounds pretty much perfect. What a great experience to have while traveling!

    Also, I’m happy to participate again in Wanderlust Wednesday this week. I linked up on my post today.

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Welcome to Chocoholics Anonymous, Lauren! Haha! And thanks for linking up – I enjoyed your post!

  • Pingback: Escape Central London & Explore Richmond! | Bon Voyage, Lauren!()

  • I just chocolated my way through Lille, France last weekend (and somehow, only 4 days later, almost all the chocolate is gone…how does that happen?!?!)! Have you been to the museum of cocoa and chocolate in Brussels? There’s a sample dispenser (or 3) that I may or may not have simply stuck a sandwich bag under and filled with yummy dark chocolate pellets!! I’ve never had the chance to make my own, though, and that sounds fabulous!!

    • Dana Carmel

      No, I haven’t been to that museum in Brussels – we went to a lace factory instead (no comparison to chocolate!). But I will definitely have to go and fill up sandwich bags with chocolate whenever I’m back in Brussels. Mmmm…

      And yes, you should definitely take a chocolate-making class in Belgium or at one of the Choco Museo locations.


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