Cousins Margarita Garcia and Tere Lopez say that a lot of people make chocolate in their town, but not everyone does it the traditional way anymore. The pair toasts organic cacao beans from soft brown to a nearly charred black, swirling them over the comal. They then peel them, releasing the shells, and grind the beans on a metate, a stone grinder that has a small flame underneath to keep it warm and helps liquify the cacao as it transforms from small pieces to silky chocolate. They then mold it into bars for hot chocolate. They make it look easy, but it’s hard work.
The cousins are in San Dionisio Ocotepec, a small town where their family also make sandals and mezcal (so…otherwise known as heaven). The chocolate production area involves one comal and two metates and feels far away from the Mayordomo chain in Oaxaca city where your chocolate is ground in mechanical grinders and melted into perfectly shaped discs. Oaxaca is home to the most diversity of chocolate drinks in Mexico, you can find hints of that in the tejate on street corners and the hot chocolate that’s offered up as easy as coffee. But like mole or mezcal, the best stuff is mostly in the countryside, and it’s getting a little harder to find a good chocolate in the city these days, especially with cacao grown naturally or in Oaxaca. Theirs comes from Tuxtapec, bordering the state of Veracruz. It’s a small farm that also grows ginger, coffee and turmeric, which you can find added into some of their chocolate as well.
The hot chocolate that Margarita and Tere served me had deep flavors of smoke and nuttiness, and after a good bateado (the technique of using a wooden whisk used to froth chocolate) in the traditional glossy green pitcher, it almost tasted creamy despite that it was just made with water. They have a few different variations of bars that with water or milk melt into hot chocolate: bitter, semi-bitter or traditional which has sugar and cinnamon mixed in. I loved that the traditional wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet which is the case anytime I order any drink in Mexico (even a fresh juice!) They also have chocolate covered coffee and nuts, as well as bars with different nuts, honey mixed with cacao nibs and jams made with seasonal fruit like passion fruit.
If you’re interested in visiting them and seeing a demo or buying chocolate, you can plan ahead with Margarita. The town is a little over an hour from Oaxaca, not far from Tlacolula or Matatlán. You can email Margarita at email@example.com or text her on whatsapp: +52 1951 285 5155.