Say what you will about Uganda but we CAN and sometimes do make great stuff. Take for instance this indie chocolate factory that with love and hands on (literally) attention produces great chocolate from locally grown cacao trees. After tasting it, you will wonder why you need to buy imported chocolate ever again.
The chocolate making tour and workshop at Moonbean chocolate factory in Kampala details the history of chocolate and the nitty gritty that give the sometimes limited edition Moonbean bars their distinct flavours. The best part, I mean one of the best parts, is that you can see exactly what goes into your chocolate. While there are many more steps in the workshop, I’ll break it down into just 6. Hopefully that will be enough to entice you and your crew to go and discover more.
1. The cacao tree
It all starts with Cacao trees; 6 to 8 year old trees in Bundibugyo. Once they start to fruit, with care they can produce cacao pods for over 20 years. The equatorial climate is just right for them to flourish.
The farmers then harvest, dry and ferment the beans (a key step for flavor) for a few days before shipping the beans to the Moonbean chocolate factory. And that is where the fun begins for you.
Here the beans are dried a little more if need be and are sorted by hand.
On the workshop and tour, you will have a chance to do some sorting, removing the shells, roasting and grinding the beans in your own little motor. Fun fact: every part of the cacao bean is useful. The husks can be used to make a ‘tea’ like beverage. They can also be used as mulch in your garden-nice smelling mulch.
This for me was the step that made me go like…”Ahhh. So this is how it’s done!” As you grind the beans in your motor, you do not to add any water to make the paste that is the distinct colour of chocolate. This, in addition to sugar and cocoa butter is all you need to actually make chocolate!
4. What are cacao ceremonies?
If like me you have searched ‘Can cacao make you high?, you will have a chance to find out with this beverage.
The answer is no…t exactly. It could have been a combination of the sweet smell of chocolate, fun with friends after some separation, the lead chocolatier playing guitar and being told that this drink would make me feel good that I actually felt uber light and relaxed. It has a bit of chilli powder too and that is always fun.
In the meantime, Shadrack will temper the chocolate. There is a long explanation for what that means which involves words like degrees, crystals and a temperature gun. However, your jaw will probably be agape at the juggler like display that he does with the chocolate on the marble. You just have to see it yourself.
6. Making your own chocolate molds!
Now, you will get a ready batch of chocolate in semi-liquid state to fill into 12 molds. You will also get several toppings to help you create your own chocolate recipe. Salt and banana any one?
There are the classic coconut and almond toppings and the road less travelled fene (jackfruit) to choose from. When these molds set, they will never melt…and you will be able to keep them out of the fridge and still get that distinct dark flavor of Moonbean chocolate. The biggest surprise topping for me was the sim sim. I ate that particular piece 4 days after making it. The sim sim was slightly crunchy and airy at the same time. The chocolate; dark, sweet, authentic.
As we learn to exist alongside this pandemic, we’ll be looking for fun activities that we can do with small groups of friends. That some of these activities are tasty is just a welcome bonus. Check out Moonbean Chocolate here and here to book your tour.
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