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.

If Food Had Passports: Guatemalan Cardamom

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

Ever since I started raiding the breath freshener (and carminative) trays at Indian restaurants, I’ve been curious about cardamom.  Whereas my usual reason for diving into those trays was for the candy-coated fennel seeds, the inimitable aggressive and unique flavor of cardamom always stood out.  When else could I find the expensive pods in my food?  Atop biryanis, in milk and as a seasoning for teas.

And in Antigua, Guatemala, in chocolate:

Antigua, Guatemala - Cardamom Chocolate (2)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 amusement of self-declared travel/food bloggers.  Most of it is shipped to the Middle East and India, the latter of which frequently expressing sour grapes over one of its native crops.

If you’re curious about the history of cardamom – a distant relative of my favorite root, ginger – visit the Western Ghats of India to discover its origin.


Are you a fan of cardamom?  Have you ever been to Guatemala?

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