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"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the classic children's book about a poor kid who thinks a Golden Ticket is good enough proof that he
I Found the Golden Ticket: A Guatemalan Chocolate Experience!
Posted in Culture by Lindsey McDonald on 7/6/2008
While in Guatemala, I learned that not only is Guatemala famous for its delicious coffee, but also its chocolate! Apparently, the Mayans had many uses for the cocoa bean from medicinal to food, and invented many various ways of cooking and flavoring it. Having heard this, I decided I needed to try some of this Guatemalan chocolate and maybe find a way to even buy some before I left.
One of our last nights in Antigua, Traci and I went to an internet cafe. As I was waiting for her to finish up what she was working on, I began reading all the brochures and advertisements on the walls inside the cafe and even made my way outside to see if there was anything interesting posted out there. At first glance there didn't seem to be anything out there, but looking again, I noticed something in the shadows. There was a small white sheet of paper with black ink on it. If it had been a different circumstance, I probably would have passed it by, but bored and curious I began to read what it said. Much to my surprise and excitement it was an advertisement for a Guatemalan chocolate store. I admit that I was skeptical due to the poor advertising which did not even mention the name of the store or the address, but I wrote down the two streets it claimed to corner and the name of the cafe it said was across the street, and hoped it was a legit place that still existed.
Arriving at the hostel later, I was excited to tell Jenn about my new discovery. We had been talking about Central American chocolate ever since we heard about a chocolate factory in Costa Rica, and had a cocoa tree outside of our house when we were staying in Bamboo. I also knew I could depend on her to go on a quest for this chocolate store or place whatever it was. So we planned to scope it out our next free afternoon and much to my surprise even with the minimal amount of details I had about the place most everyone else wanted to come along as well.
The following Monday afternoon, nine of us ventured out on a quest for what we hoped would be a cute little chocolate store with a variety of chocolate. I'll admit I was imagining the store in the movie Chocolat: bright colored walls, organized and mouth-watering display cases, and good looking, friendly people. What we finally walked into though, at first to ask directions for a seventh time but eventually with some disappointment realized that we had reached our destination; was a dark store, with cluttered counter tops and walls, and an eccentric, middle aged, American man behind the counter. The only way I recognized it as the place was because it was across the street from the cafe and there were cocoa and coffee beans on the counter along with a few other bagged items that looked like they could be chocolate.
Sadly, I don't remember the man's name, but during the short time we were there he expressed to us his passion for and faith in the cocoa bean, his hatred for President Bush and capitalism, and he told us about his website which has nothing to do with chocolate but seems to be more of a collection of his thoughts and theories on America and history, etc. Sorry, I don't remember the web address to share. It was obvious the guy loved to hear himself talk though and when he mentioned he was born in Texas I quickly blurted out that I was from Texas. This led him to announce that he had once written a poem about Texas, and he began to enthusiastically recite it for us. "Remember the Alamo!" he exclaimed, and that is all I remember of it. He was reciting it so quickly and it got to the point where it was awkwardly long, especially since he had another customer outside of our group waiting for him to ground up some coffee beans.
As I watched him reciting what became a never ending poem, I kept picturing Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and began hoping that Oompa Loompas would appear from behind the counter and join in his recitation. Finally, he concluded but not without first informing us that the poem is originally one hundred pages long. I couldn't help but be intrigued by this man. What had inspired him to write a hundred page poem about Texas? Where had his passion for the cocoa bean come from and what brought him to Antigua, Guatemala? Sadly, I never asked him these questions. I am thankful for whoever taught him to make chocolate and instilled in him a passion for the cocoa bean, though, because he definitely makes some delicious chocolate. Even without being beautifully displayed, the chocolate still managed to be pretty darn good.
One of the biggest hits amongst our group was the mix of unsweetened cocoa, honey, cinnamon, and chili powder. In all honesty, it looked like poop in a bag, but tasted so good. The only way I can think to describe it is a chocolate covered red hot or hot tamale, but even better. In all of his creations he only used honey to sweeten the chocolate. It was solely pure cocoa and honey. Many claimed it was bitter and decided they didn't like it, but I loved it. Most of the Guatemalan chocolate I have come across is definitely more bitter than sweet, but I think our group decided that if you like coffee than you will like Guatemalan chocolate.
The next morning, I made Jenn return with me to get a few more things. When we arrived at the shop one of the doors was open so we walked in, but we didn't see anybody. Uncertain of what to do we walked back out deciding that we would yell "Hello!" and walk in again. After a couple of "hellos" the man shot up from behind the counter looking flustered and surprising us. Maybe we had woken him up I'm not sure. As we contained our laughter, I quickly picked out what I wanted and after a few awkward moments and a random conversation we said our final good-bye and thank you to our eccentric Willy Wonka friend.
If anyone loves making businesses look good and enjoys marketing, I know a place that has a lot of potential and needs a lot of help in Guatemala. Or if you ever happen to take a trip out to Antigua, Guatemala I would recommend you stop by and visit the corner chocolate store across the street from the Rainbow Cafe. Even if you don't care about chocolate, you should stop in and visit. You might get a chance to hear a recitation, and if your lucky enough maybe it will be the poem about Texas.
1 Posted by Pat B on 7/6/2008 6:00:16 PM
2 Posted by Dad on 7/7/2008 6:54:43 AM
3 Posted by Janice Hall on 7/7/2008 4:03:52 PM
4 Posted by corrie portier on 7/7/2008 10:53:40 PM
5 Posted by Dan Matthews on 7/8/2008 9:51:27 AM
6 Posted by jenn me again on 7/10/2008 9:09:54 PM
7 Posted by Vanessa Williams on 7/20/2008 6:12:04 PM
8 Posted by Tony Ryals on 5/27/2011 4:58:52 PM