Chocolate is not just a dessert in Oaxaca. Here is our updated insider’s guide for drinking, eating and buying cacao products.
Chocolate comes from the beans of the cacao tree that grows in tropical climates.
The word cacao has been traced to the Olmec. The Maya continued the use and introduced this to the Aztecs who called it xocolatl, meaning ‘bitter water.’
The Spaniards sent chocolate to Europe. It took a while for the treat to become popular. By the late 18th century chocolate shops were fashionable and chocolate has ever since been a world-wide favorite.
Cacao refers to the tree and its products before processing. Cocoa describes the product after processing. Chocolate refers to any manufactured cacao product.
Oaxaca doesn’t grow much cacao. Most of the beans come from Chiapas and Tabasco. That said, Oaxaca is one of the premier places in the world where travelers can purchase chocolate to go with a choice of spices.
Chocoholics take notice! There are numerous stores and market stalls to taste the best of Oaxaca.
Mina Street is a good starting point. Note the curious scent of dust, diesel and chocolate. Check out the barrels of cocoa beans — currency before the Spanish arrived — in the doorways of the stores.
Hot chocolate is made with your choice of water or milk.
Order chocolate with a selection of spices. Great place to taste the concoction? Try the chocolate bar (photo) at the Mayordomo at the corner of Mina and 20 de Noviembre.
If you are looking for hot chocolate at the 20 de Noviembre Market, friends recommend the Comedor María Cristina (#19-20).
If you’re looking for a clean, simple place to stay, there’s Chocolate Posada on Mina #212.
My favorite chocolate? Chocoluchy!
Mayordomo, Soledad and Guelaguetza are the three most famous brands (marcas), available at supermarkets and at their own stores where you can ask for almonds, cinnamon or vanilla to be added to the mix for a special package you can take home.
You can also buy handmade chocolate (chocolate casero) at various Oaxaca City markets.
One store that specializes in chocolate manufacturing goodies is Fantasia en Chocolate on Xicoténactl Street. Organic chocolates are sold at several natural food stores, including Xiguela, Hidalgo #104-C.
The most popular way to drink chocolate is via a hot beverage. Hot chocolate is a wonder in Oaxaca and is made with either water or milk. This is your best bet for the pure chocolate flavor. Brad made with egg yolk is served on the side and it’s ok to dunk the bread if you wish. A variation of the hot chocolate is champurrado a hearty drink made with cocoa and corn. This is thicker than chocolate de agua or chocolate de leche.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT TEJATE
This beverage was originally served to the ruling elite of Zapotec society.
Like most Oaxacan delicacies, it is complex in its composition. The libation is made from corn, roasted cacao beans, mamey seed and rosita flowers (flor cacahuaxochitl).
The ingredients are blended in a thick mass, which is gradually thinned with water. Tradition calls for this process to be done by hand and the tejateras’ arm does the mixing. Tejate is served as markets in hand-painted, gourd bowls called jicaras.
Tejate can also be served as a sherbet, as cookies and as nicuatole.
FESTIVAL — The annual Tejate Fair is held in the spring in the town of San Andrés Huayapam.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT MOLE
The most well-known mole in Oaxaca is the black (negro) variety, which includes a variety of spices and cacao. The other moles do not include chocolate. They are red (rojo), yellow (amarillo), deep red (coloradito), green (verde), manchamanteles, estofado, chichilo and pipián.
Wooden beaters (molinillos) are used to make chocolate. They are for sale at many of Oaxaca’s markets.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND
Chocolate items you will not find are locally-made candy bars, cocoa powder or chocolate chips.
Also check out the Chocolate album on Flickr.