Our final visit took place this morning; Mayordomo Chocolate. Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos. The company was founded about 40 years ago, and the manager of the facility told us that Mayordomo has no competitors in the city of Oaxaca, which is where 80 percent of their chocolate stores are located.
The chocolate is used for making drinking chocolate, which is traditionally mixed with water (rather than milk) and is heated to 45-50 degrees C. The low temperature allows the chocolate to slowly melt, without losing any of the smell of the chocolate. Their final product is made from Mexican cacao (Mexico is in the top ten for cacao production), which is raised in the thinnest portion of the country which is in the south (and is where we are right now). Most of the growers are small scale right now, but the company seems to be making a shift in its practices: they bought 500 acres and have farmers planting cacao, which will eventually bear fruit (3-4 years before a tree produces).
Like most of the other producers and manufacturers we have visited, Mayordomo is concerned with both quality and safety. To ensure a high quality product, they procure beans and sugar that are certified kosher. There is a food scientist on staff. and her job is to test the chocolate for pathogens.
A large part of the production process is manual: at different stages of roasting and toasting, men are loading and unloading bags of beans into machinery (and then back into bags). Pastes made of beans and cinnamon are manually mixed into sugar. Chocolate is unmolded by women, who hand wrap the packages in foil. Boxes of chocolate (intended for retailing) are manually wrapped, and then sent through a machine for shrinking.
The squares of chocolate are about 3 by 3 inches, and consist of 9 equal sized smaller squares. When the women unmold chocolate (all of this is done is a cold room, by women wearing white rubber boots), the chocolate is popped out onto long metal pans that hold 120 bars, 5 deep by 24 wide. The chocolate is not touched by a hand for more than 10 seconds – after 40 seconds, it would start to melt.
The company is in the process of mechanizing many of its manual processes, which will allow their production to increase by a factor of 5. When they shift to the machines, they will roll out a new brand, but will still (I think this is what he said) maintain their handwrapped line.
Tonight is our farewell dinner, and tomorrow we’ll head to the Mexico City airport at 4:30 am. All in all, it has been an amazing trip. One student has promised a guest blog on the trip to the coffee farm that I had to miss yesterday. For many reasons, my heart is broken over that; most significantly is that our UPEAP host, Octavio, was surprised and shocked that the coffee farmers make such little money – less than $700 (US) per hectare for one year’s work – and these are farmers connected with a coffee cooperative (the one we visited yesterday morning). This morning he told me he could not believe that, given that a cup of coffee costs $4 in NYC. I love watching people realize (1) how hard it is to produce food, and (2) that farmers do not make a lot of money for their efforts, and I am sorry to have missed that.