Hot Chocolate, Two Ways (Mérida, México)

A few years ago, I took a road trip with some friends around southeastern Mexico, starting and ending in Orizaba, Veracruz, ultimately getting as far as Cancun.  As I may have mentioned before, Mexico – thus far – is one of my top three countries for eating…thus, I was not only looking forward to exploring more of the country with locals, but also to trying new and familiar foods along the way.

For instance, there’s chocolate.  I’ve wondered why Mexican chocolate doesn’t get much attention around the world, in spite of being the ancestral home of Theobroma cacao, the Latin name for the original cacao tree.  Of course, colonial empires and globalization have played a role in spreading the harvesting of cacao throughout many tropical countries, namely the Ivory Coast, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Fast forward to my road trip, and the city of Mérida, located in the state of Yucatan.  Although counting nearly one million inhabitants in its metro area, its downtown area has a cozy feel to it.  Mérida is hot year-round, has boulevards lined with mansions built almost entirely thanks to rope, and owing to Mayan tradition, unique foods found nowhere else in Mexico.

Plus, due to its recognition as being one of the safest cities in the country and with that, a sizable expat population, they’ve got some fine places eat and drink.  Places like Ki’XOCOLATL, a small chocolate shop adjacent to Santa Lucia Park.

Hot Chocolate, Two Ways, Ki’XOCOLATL (from left to right, “brown sugar, cinnamon, achiote, allspice, and habanero;” honey is in the container on the central plate)

Though there are some debates as to the origins of the word chocolate, it no doubt stems from Nahuatl, a language spoken for centuries in rural parts of central Mexico; xocolia means “to make bitter,” and atl refers to “water.”

When it was first discovered nearly 4000 years ago by pre-Olmec cultures, it was consumed in its naturally bitter state, ground into a paste with water.  Subsequent civilizations started to add in what was organically found at the time in Mexican jungles and rain forests, namely honey, chilies, and vanilla.

After a long stroll through downtown Merida, I wanted to sit down and relax with some sweets.  Ki’XOCOLATL offered hot chocolate, two ways, I as I deem it.  The first method was the contemporary style, sweetened with sugar.  The latter, evoking how Olmecs and Mayans may have enjoyed it, started off by merely being the bitter cacao seed heated up with water.  The waiter served it alongside honey, brown sugar, achiote – a yellow-orange seed typically used to add color to foods, allspice, habanero, and cinnamon, although cinnamon hails from Sri Lanka.

Although the ancient hot chocolate took a bit of getting used to, I admit that the modern one was the best cup of it I have ever tried.


Where did you have your favorite cup of hot chocolate?  Whether it was in Mexico or somewhere else, let me know!

Four Eats – and One Beer – in Antwerp, Belgium (VIDEO)

Since my last visit to Belgium was in 2007, I figured that it was time to go back to the land of fries, chocolate, and although I rarely drink it, beer.

antwerp belgium train station facade
Antwerp Train Station, Belgium: Very Cool Façade

With just a couple of days in Antwerp — home of a beautiful train station, massive diamond trading, and court portrait artist Anthony Van Dyck — I had to make tracks in my food quest.

How many stone do I weigh now? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Belgium once again proved that its chocolate, fries, and beer are a dangerous trifecta too good not to want to try.

Need proof?

Guatemala, the World’s Largest Cardamom Exporter?

Source: https://qtradeteas.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/cardamom/

Source: Qtradeteas

Cardamom, that pungent and fierce member of the ginger family, was likely first discovered in the Western Ghats of India.  It has been used for thousands of years as a breath freshener, tooth cleaner, and carminative. It is also one of the world’s most expensive spices, as it involves significant manual labor to process.

Although it is most popularly used in South Asian curries, you can also find it in Scandinavian desserts, such as Sweden’s semla, and for the amusement of food bloggers, in Guatemalan chocolate.

Antigua, Guatemala - Cardamom Chocolate (2)

Wow, cardamom really gets around.

Though the Vikings discovered cardamom in their voyages, how did this light green spice make its way to Guatemala?

Prior to World War I, German coffee farmer Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced cardamom to the fertile soil of Alta Verapáz.  Guatemala is currently the world’s largest exporter of cardamom, though hardly uses it on the domestic front, save for adding it to bars of local chocolate much to the delight of self-described food bloggers.  Most of it is shipped to the Middle East and India, where it is used in coffee and biryani.

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