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I'll be travelling to Oaxaca. Does anyone have any recommendations for places to see, food (chocolate!) to try, or things to do? Thanks!

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I have conducted chocolate tours to Mexico (including Oaxaca) since 1990. Unfortunately, my last tour was a year ago. Oaxaca is a hot bed of chocolate in Mexico, one of the few areas that still practice many of the chocolate traditions handed down to them by their ancestors. To get a real feel for the place, do as the locals do and have breakfast at Fonda Abuelita, one of the oldest stalls in the 20 de noviembre market. We traditionally order chocolate de agua and pan de yema. Then we cross the street to the Mercado San Benito Juarez to shop for chocolate pots, molinillos, traditional metal chocolate molds (used tor shape patties), jicaras (gourd drinking cups), and cacao beans--lavados (washed), beneficiados (partially fermented), and fermentados (fermented). If you're lucky, you may see someone selling pataxtle,"white cacao" which comes from the Theobroma Bi-Color trees. These beans are really special and are used to make perhaps the most revered chocolate drink of all--chocolate atole.
Please tell more about the 'white cacao' drink I am very interested. Are the beans from bicolor washed or fermented? Where could I get some to try?
The bi-color cacao beans are buried in a deep hole in the ground. This is done under certain astrological conditions by a few chosen women who, for six months, daily pour water into a hole alongside the covered beans. The beans ferment during that time, the shells turn black and crack open to reveal the chalk white transformation of the meat of the bean. The beans are then dried in the shade for several days. These beans are traditionally used to make the enormous head of foam that is placed on top of a cup filled with atole. Making the base for the foam on a metate is a laborious task but the results are amazing--a large bowl heaped with foam capable of staying "alive" for 7 or 8 hours. It is the most revered ceremonial drink in Oaxaca.

You can sometimes find pataxtle (spelled many different ways) for sale in the Benito Juarez market as well as at the abastos market in Oaxaca city. You'll also find them in the village markets of Tlacolula, Teotitlan del Valle and others throughout the state of Oaxaca. I don't know of any purpose for using them other than for making foam for chocolate atole. Sometimes this drink is sold in the markets but I would not recommend drinking it there. The queen of chocolate atole making is Abigail Mendoza in Teotitlan del Valle.
I have heard of bicolour seeds sold as macambo, the seeds are skewered on sticks and roasted then served salted.

I would probably have no chance of getting to the places you mention as I am in Australia. Know anyone that would ship? My interest would be in making the drink, I make a lot of chocolate drinks from the bean using a Spectra 10 to grind the beans.
The raw beans would be the ones that they skewer. Once they turn chalky they pulverize if you squeeze them and they would not be suitable for eating. I will send you the recipe for making chocolate atole if you write to me.

The raw beans are easy to spot in the market. They resemble regular cacao beans but they are flatter and wider, similar to lima beans. The ones for sale are washed, not fermented per se. The fermented ones are the chalky ones. I do not know of a source for purchasing them outside of Mexico.

I've been told by some sellers of bicolor seeds (unfermented) that they are also used in tejate, though I have yet to find a tejate vendor who admits to using it - cacao blanco they call it here.

A few weeks ago, I had occasion to "discover" this cacao blanco when I asked about at the Sunday Tlacolula market. I bought some and roasted it, then bought more later at the central de abastos. They make a wonderful nutty tasting roasted snack, that, if roasted right, you can sometimes peel by hand. They require more roasting than theobroma cacao, and the skin is thicker.

I also ground some up using my champion juicer. This works great with cacao, actually turning out a decent liqueur through the fine screen, and pushing what remains of the skins/husks (I'm still not very good at winnowing) through. With the bicolor, the fat seems to be denser and with a higher melting point. Running it through the champion juicer was much harder than with cacao. It would not go through the fine screen. Maybe I needed to run it through a couple more times, I don't know. Anyway, I've been making a delicious hot chocolate with some fine "almendra blanca" criollo beans from Tabasco, and in my latest pot, I included about 15% bicolor. It's delicious! Very buttery and creamy, and mildly nutty. I've also tried making a "hot chocolate" with only bicolor, and that's also delicious, though it tastes not at all of chocolate.

So much fun experimenting!...

Hi! I am a fellow chocolate lover traveling to Oaxaca in a few weeks. I read that you stayed with a host family while you were there....I would like to do the same thing, but I am having difficulty locating one over the internet. How did you locate a family? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


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