Chocolate-Making in Nicaragua

Museo de Chocolate, Nicaragua
When you’re headed to Nicaragua, there are some things you must indulge in. Arguably, they both have physical and emotional health benefits. We’re talking about coffee and chocolate.

For the record, chocolate has less caffeine than coffee, unless you’re eating an entire vat of it. And, many doctors now acknowledge that chocolate is good for you. Assuming you’re choosing the purest dark chocolate, without the artificial additives, and minimal sugar.

Cacao is full of antioxidants, and can even lower your risk for some forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. A high level of magnesium is a great stress buster, and there are many other nutrients in the cacao bean. Enjoy both coffee and chocolate without the guilt trip.

According to the Choco-Museo at the Mansion de Chocolate in Granada, Nicaragua, chocolate beans were used as a currency in Mesoamerica. At one time, people walked 1400 kilometers, from Guatemala to Mexico City, carrying heavy loads of the bean on their backs. Now, Nicaragua is the biggest producer of cacao in Central America. You can buy bars or pure powder in most grocery or specialty stores in the major cities.

Sample — or stock up on — the plethora of cacao goodies here. Nearly one year after my trip, I still have a small bag of pure powdered cacao that I use to make what I consider the best, easiest and healthiest, hot chocolate. It’s so flavorful, that I don’t add sweetener or whitener. I drink it pure, with hot water, for a lovely treat that warms up my belly, my heart, and my brain.

Admittedly, I’m not a queen in the kitchen. In fact, I own no apron and tend to go with five-minute or fewer prep meals. However, one of the highlights of my two-month extended stay in Nicaragua was making my own chocolate bar. The downside: it was just one small bar.

Regardless, this may have been the best chocolate bar I’ve ever tasted. More important, I had a blast along the way. I took a short workshop in Granada at the Mansion de Chocolate.

Making my own bar, was a highlight, partly because my kitchen king was delightfully funny and with high energy. (Apparently, he consumes coffee and chocolate throughout the day.)

Our bars were 75 percent dark chocolate and we could choose plenty of add-ins. It was almost like at the frozen yogurt store, where you customize your dish. I added a tad of sea salt and cayenne pepper and loads of cashews to my prized piece of chocolate.  Beyond tasty, it was packed with protein.

The museum hosts several of these workshops a day. Before or after, you can treat yourself to spa services, and stroll through the museum to learn about the history of chocolate in the Americas.

The spa offers facials, hot stone massages, waxing, and pedicures, with or without the cacao.  Pile it on with combo specials like a mani, pedi, and facial, or reflexology with mani and pedi.

After you get your fill of chocolate on your skin, and in your tummy, you can enjoy the swimming pool on the premises. Many also pick this spot for a Sunday brunch. The cafe serves chocolate goodies morning or night, in part, to serve the hotel guests. Chocoholics can get their fix of chocolate from sun up to sundown.

Finally, if you want to pamper yourself, consider a weekend stay at the Mansion de Chocolate, where many of the combo packages are included, and all spa services are discounted.

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