The ABCs: Alpacas, Beans, and Chocolates!
26.06.2016 - 30.06.2016 70 °F
Arequipa is Peru's second largest city, with a population of just under a million. The city is framed by 3 volcanoes: Misti, Chachani, and PichuPichu.
The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site, and many of the colonial buildings are constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone.
It seems like every city in Peru has a central square called "Plaza de Armas," and Arequipa's boasts this stunning 17th century basilica.
While Peru is primarily Catholic, there is fascinating mixture of Christian and Incan religions throughout the country. For example this Catholic altar also features a sun which represents the Incan god, Inti.
Arequipa's religious and colonial buildings blend European and native characteristics into a unique architecture style called "Escuela Arequipeña."
A highlight of Arequipa, was our trip to Mundo Alpaca, a live eco-exhibition of alpaca wool processing.
First we met some lovely alpacas and llamas up close.
Then, we learned about how they shave the fleece and separate the fibers by color.
While llamas are multi-hued, alpacas are single colored animals, and there are only 22 shades of natural fleece.
Next, we walked through the long process of transforming the fleece into yarn in the Museum of Textile Machinery.
Colored yarn always starts as white fleece.
The exhibit also supports a resident expert in traditional weaving each month.
We were so lucky to watch this artist work with a traditional backstrap loom:
Since Arequipa is approximately 8,000 feet above sea level, we also spent a good deal of time hanging out and adjusting to the change in altitude.
On a low key day, we signed up for a chocolate making lesson at one of our favorite hangouts: Chaqchao!
We learned the history of chocolate back to the Incas and Aztecs. We also got to check out a fresh cacao pod (left), a 4 day old dry pod (center) and hold a piece of cocao butter (right):
Each pod contains 20-60 beans.
Cacao beans can be processed into cocao butter and chocolate. The chocolate is made from finely grinding the toasted beans, while the cacao butter is obtained by pressing the beans.
Aztecs used to grind cacao beans for 6 hours to make them into a super drink for soldiers and kings. After shelling the toasted cacao beans ourselves, we ground them for about 15 minutes before making our version.
We also learned that cacao was a form of currency in ancient times. In the Incan culture, you could buy a large tomato for 1 cacao bean, a small rabbit for 30 beans, and a wife for a mere 300 beans!
Then, they let us go behind the scenes and make chocolate!
After carefully picking out toppings, we each poured our own dozen.
Sarah had no trouble licking the spoon(s).
After saying adios to Tre, we headed for the high Andes. Our update next Sunday will be from Cusco!
In the mean time, have a delightful week everyone!