MUCHO – Museo de Chocolate
I met Ana Maria Garcia Lascurain, founder of the MUCHO – Museo de Chocolate in Mexico City about three years ago at Chocoa, a Cacao and Chocolate Fair in Amsterdam. I fell in love with her talk about the different chocolate cultures in Mexico and ever since I have been wanting to visit her Museum.
The Museo de Chocolate was created in 2012 as a cultural and educational institution. It is located in a beautiful house from 1909 in the hip Colonia Juárez just in the heart of Mexico City. Its façade and interior have been carefully restored and contribute to rescue effort of historical buildings of Mexico City. The Chocolate Museum has a special focus on aesthetics and has an elegant and cosy atmosphere. The Museum has 6 dedicated chocolate rooms in the upper floor, a classical patio and a Shop & Restaurant on the ground floor. It is amazingly compact, fitting so much knowledge in a bijou space.
MUCHO has a carefully curated array of ancient and contemporary pieces from Mexico, Europe, America and Asia which take the visitor on a journey through time, beginning with the prehispanic origins of chocolate in Mexico, evolving in the following centuries with illustrated original engravings from the 17th to the 19th century, the history of the industrial production of chocolate and culminating in contemporary expressions of visual artists, designers and gastronomers , as well as works of contemporary art advertisements by important graphic designers from the 20th century. The last room is dedicated to the different cacao varieties and cultivation practices from different regions in Mexico, showing the importance of the flora and fauna in which cacao is planted.
Academics and specialists have contributed to the construction of this museum, with conferences, presenting relevant research on cacao and chocolate. Artists from different disciplines contribute regularly with concerts, exhibitions and many different forms of expressions. Making the museum a living forum for exchange in various fields of knowledge. Chocolate is viewed through the lenses of history, culture, anthropology, technology and nature. Creating an open and inclusive dialogue.
What sets this Museum apart from so many other Chocolate Museums?
Most chocolate Museums are owned by big chocolate companies which are only interested in portraying the history of chocolate through the lenses of their brands, elegantly sidestepping any uncomfortable historical pieces that do not support their marketing ploy. The MUCHO in contrast is led by an anthropologist bringing the story of us humans in relation to chocolate to the centre. It is a cultural institution that strives to transfer knowledge and that opens a dialogue with many contributors to paint a culturally rich and inclusive picture of such a complex topic as the history of cacao and chocolate from a Mexican viewpoint. The only point I was missing in the museum was a hint to the visitor that while Mexico gave chocolate to the world and has this amazing chocolate culture, nowadays it only produces less than 2% of the world Cacao and has become a net importer of Cacao.
Ana Maria was such a wonderful host, I got the chance to have a chocolate tasting with her, although it was Saturday and the Museum was very busy. We tasted all the Cacao Associations and Fincas with which the Museum works: Finca la Rioja, selva Zoque, Finca Frida, Arroyo Hondo, Tuxtla Chico, Asoc Emiliano. All made with excellent dedication by their inhouse chocolate maker bringing out the right chocolate profiles for each cacao bean variety. It was the first time I tried a dark chocolate with cacao lavado, this means the cacao washed but it is not fermented. It tasted like smooth peanut butter. Normally this cacao is very bitter and needs to be hidden in large amounts of sugar… but apparently if you have the right genetics and right technic it is possible to make nice chocolate with very unusual flavour profile.
All this while my kids enjoyed playing chocolate lottery and making their own chocolate on a heated metate. Thank you so much Ana Maria for this wonderful experience.