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A Chocolate Museum

After all the attention to my renunciation, it’s time to return to our regularly-scheduled programming. I wrote this soon after I was in Guadeloupe last April, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle and I never posted it. Better late than never, right?

Just seeing the bright hand-painted sign above the entrance to La Maison du Cacao in Pointe Noire, Guadeloupe, was enough to make me happy.

The entrance gate to La Maison de Cacao

The entrance gate to La Maison de Cacao

The truth is that pretty much anything chocolate-related makes me happy. I’m an addict.

The Garden

The museum is set in a small grove of cacao trees, making it easy to see the development of the bean.

Cacao pods in the garden of the museum. The cacao beans are inside.

Cacao pods in the garden of the museum. The cacao beans are inside.

Signs explain cacao’s unique properties as well as its cultivation, sometimes with quite amusing translations.

Although chocolate is considered as an exceptional food, comprered [sic] to one of the seven deadly sins, which provides pleasures and benefits, to justify our implicit passion!

Here’s an interesting factoid from the grove: Belgium consumes the most chocolate of any country at 10.7 kilos per inhabitant per year. Not surprising given the quality of their chocolate! Here in the Netherlands, the total is only 4.4 kilos, while in the US each person consumes 5.4 kilos.

Cacao beans drying

Cacao beans drying

Inside the Chocolate Museum

The real action of this museum, though, is inside, where the demonstrations take place. It’s a rather chaotic place, and would be better if it had scheduled demonstration times. It took me a while to figure out what was going on with the two clumped crowds in one large open-air room.

It turned out that two separate demonstrations were going on at two neighboring counters, and the visitors weren’t necessarily listening to what was being explained. This could very well have been because so many were children; they weren’t particularly interested in anything but tasting the chocolate.

A staff member explains the chocolate-making process.

A staff member explains the chocolate-making process.

I was eventually able to shoulder my way to the counter, coming in halfway through an explanation of how cacao is transformed into chocolate. The extremely patient woman behind the counter went through each step, mostly using hand tools like a counter-top hand-cranked mill.

a hand mill used to demonstrate how the cacao is processed into chocolate

a hand mill used to demonstrate how the cacao is processed into chocolate

After each step she’d place the result on a dish so it could be passed around and touched and tasted. If a step in the process was more time-consuming, she’d walk away and fetch a sample from a cupboard to show us.

The fragment of the demonstration I saw was interesting, and I would have liked some quiet so I could have heard more clearly what the woman was saying, especially since my French is sketchy at best. At the end the woman offered some small bits of plain chocolate with different degrees of sweetness, but it certainly wasn’t the generous helpings we were offered at the Valor factory tour.

Im not sure exactly what step these balls of ... something ... were in the process from cacao to chocolate. I didnt catch what the woman said.

I’m not sure exactly what step these balls of … something … were in the process from cacao to chocolate. I didn’t catch what the woman said.

Besides explaining the process, the woman explained the different qualities of chocolate. I had always wondered why one brand of chocolate can be so much better than another’s while using the same ingredients. If my French was better, as well as my hearing, that distinction would be clear to me now.

The last stop in the museum is, of course, the shop, or rather, one counter with a display case. This was as mobbed as the demonstration counter, so I never got to sample more of their chocolates.

Perhaps I was just unlucky to visit at a busy time. If it’s like that all the time, the management needs to either expand or reorganize. Nevertheless, I was bound to enjoy it, given the subject matter.

Are you a chocolate fiend like I am? Leave a comment below!

If you’re interested in reading more about Guadeloupe, here is a list of all my posts from there:

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