You would never expect a wander through the back streets of Oaxaca to lead you to Chocolate Heaven.
As you stroll innocently past Calle Mina, you will find yourself pausing to sniff the air. You cannot help but change direction, turning into the street, and following the indescribable aromas.
In the midst of the heat and bustle of this unassuming Mexican town lies the heart of Mexico’s chocolate making industry. You won’t find any impersonal confectionary factories here.
Instead there are quaint chocolate shops dotted along both sides of the street, wonderful smells wafting and happy shoppers emerging from each door.
You cannot stop yourself from joining the locals and flooding inside, watching as the beans are ground down to make chocolate that flows gloopily from the machines and into shiny basins.
Then wander from shop to shop, sampling their wares. Chocolate bars, chocolate sauce, chocolate milk, and the fabulous smell of chocolate and bustle of chocolate makers and sighs of chocolate lovers on every corner.
When it all gets too much, retire to the unassuming café in the courtyard of Le Soledad chocolate factory and order an ‘Argentinian hot chocolate’.
Watch the chocolate bustle while stirring your hot milk with a full bar of melting Oaxacan chocolate. If you can’t bear to leave, there is a well-priced chocolate hotel above the courtyard. None of it is in the guidebook. All of it is a delight.
Oaxaca is an important producer and exporter of coffee, but the more important drink is chocolate. Oaxaca is one of the Mexican states that produces cacao, along with Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Morelos, Guerrero and Michoacán. Cacao and chocolate have been used in the state as food, drink and medicine. In the past the cacao beans served as a form of money.
In the center of the city of Oaxaca, various businesses grind and prepare cacao for hot chocolate drinks, moles, and more. The best known of these businesses is El Mayordomo. Inside, there large mills grind beans that are then mixed with sugar and other flavorings such as almonds and cinnamon. Most of the cacao is processed for drinking. Hot chocolate is prepared with the chocolate mixture with water or milk and heated in a pot or pitcher. Before serving, a froth is created with a special instrument is twirled rapidly by rubbing the handles between the palms. The resulting cacao beverage with the froth is named Pozonque.