Two feelings race together as we taste chocolate. One of them is related to its taste, its texture when it melts inside our mouth. The other one is becoming aware of the fact that we are adding calories to our body in the cold mountain weather.
Who can resist tasting chocolate when the aroma filters through the open door of the factory, lures and seduces us shamelessly? As soon as we entered the venue, we could observe the chocolate maker showing his art in situ on the impeccable marble table in the production area.
Stainless steel pots, wide spatulas, some colorful cardboard boxes were the only tools Manuel needed in order to start working. As we were waiting for him to put his shoulders to the wheel, we thought it was curious that the fruit of the cocoa tree, native of the warm areas in the Gulf of Mexico, would be such a praised drink thousands of kilometers away.
The point is that it features a high protein and calorie content and this turns it into a perfect drink to fight the cold in the Andean Patagonian region.
One of the chocolate factory signs contributed with some knowledge about the route covered by cocoa ever since its origins to this date. The Spaniards who reached the American shores took cocoa down to Europe to continue consuming that excellent drink.
About two hundred years later, the European arrived in the area of the Patagonian lakes. The German and Swiss grandmothers brought along their chocolate recipes and the custom of preparing it in different fashions: as a hot drink and in bars. The secrets of this task have been passed on from generation to generation to keep this tradition alive.
We stayed close to the glass to watch Manuel Figueroa. He would pour a great amount of still warm chocolate on the worktop. Just as if he was taking care of the barbecue, he would run his hand over the paste. He was the only one who knew when the temperature dropped. Then, he had to start folding or wrinkling the product with his spatula.
Finally, he made some accurate cuts and once again let the temperature drop. He would then turn to the boxes. It all seemed so simple! Later on, when we talked to him, we learned some of his secrets. “Chocolate is essentially handled in the same way, whether you are making blocks, bars or figures.”
“It is necessary to know at what temperature its consistency starts to change and work fast and with certainty. It is a matter of experience”, said Manolo, as his co-workers called him. “Good tempering and glow is what we should look for. High-quality chocolate should not stick to the palate. It should not have any chemical additives or hydrogenated oil”, he said feeling proud of his expertise.
We heard that every process in the venue was hand made. And then came the longed-for moment of accepting a piece of chocolate to decide which one we liked best. Several children were already tasting theirs. Their mouths covered in brown were the answer to the question.
We let ourselves be tempted without any shame and we chose the chocolate en rama Manuel had just prepared.