Guatemala has consistently proven itself to be an amazing place to visit. With astonishingly beautiful ruins, stunning volcanic vistas, and some of the best-known coffee in the world, it’s no surprise that the country has become one of my favorite places to visit.
But if you were looking for yet another great reason to go to Guatemala, look no further than your local store’s candy aisle.
Chocolate is one of the most beloved substances on earth, and its origins are tied up closely with the Mayan culture that calls Guatemala its home. Though cacao now grows in tropical countries all across the globe, Guatemala remains the best place to learn about the history, culture, and tradition that has made chocolate the treat that it is today.
Throughout our visit, my family chose to chase after chocolate. We learned all about how the bitter seed of a tropical plant gets transformed into the sweet that so many enjoy each day. If that sounds like an adventure you’d also like to have, these are some of the best places in Guatemala for learning about chocolate.
ChocoMuseo – Antigua, Guatemala
ChocoMuseo is one of the biggest names in chocolate education across Latin America and was where my family began our own chocolate journey.
There are two Chocomuseo locations in Guatemala. The one we visited, in Antigua, is their main location and where most guests visit. The other location is in Puerto Quetzal and is more of a work in progress, rather than a full experience.
They also have a number of other locations throughout Latin America, including locations in Mexico, Peru, and Nicaragua, as well as hosting online workshops. Since we were staying in Antigua, their free chocolate museum was a natural starting place for us!
Their workshop and museum are located just off of Antigua’s Central Park, making it super easy to find. We wandered in one morning when we had some free time and were immediately greeted at the door with samples of chocolate. We tried a few before wandering deeper into their exhibits.
The museum itself is divided into two main rooms and a small courtyard space. Informational signs telling all about the history and culture of chocolate line the walls. Others describe the entire process of making it. Small exhibits around the room show what the cacao looks like at different points in the process. Signs track the process from the raw cacao fruit all the way to the cocoa powder and butter that are used in creating our modern chocolate goods.
It’s a wonderful quick overview of the chocolate-making process, but if you want to dive a bit deeper, there are also chocolate-making workshops.
Because we were traveling with our kids, we chose to do one of their mini-chocolate workshops, which are shorter than the full bean-to-bar workshops. It was just the right length and was super informational! We started by tasting some of the chocolate that they made on-site and then poured some into a bar mold. That done, we dove into learning the process.
Our teacher explained each step of chocolate making to us, from harvesting the fruit to fermenting and roasting the beans, to grinding them down into cacao liquor for use in chocolate making. We then got to grind our own beans in a mortar and pestle and mixed them with milk and honey to make a sweetened cacao drink.
The information that you get at the museum is good, and the chocolate is great, but both left us wanting more. Even so, if you find yourself in Antigua, it is well worth taking a morning to check them out!
Artesenal Chocolates Diego
The next stop on our chocolate journey took us by surprise.
We took a day trip out to Lake Atitlan to see what the area had to see. I had heard that there were a lot of lakeside activities and shopping, but I didn’t realize there would be an excellent artisanal chocolate shop!
Artesenal Chocolates Diego was our first stop on a tour of the small lakeside town of San Juan la Laguna. The space has a much more traditional feel than Chocomuseo, and as we took a seat in front of a low table, we knew we were in for a treat.
Chocolates Diego uses cacao sourced from a local farming coop, but they do the roasting and grinding of the beans on-site. During their chocolate-making presentation, we were able to try cacao beans from each step in the process. We tried them raw and unroasted, roasted, ground, and mixed with locally-sourced sugar. Each stage in the process helped to combat the bitterness of the bean and moved us towards the sweet, sweet chocolate sold in their store.
Chocomuseo had a lot more background and cultural information available, but Chocolates Diego did a great job exploring each stage of the process. They showed us what making chocolate looks like in the real world.
Interestingly, they also have an Etsy store that works for people in the States, if you’re interested in trying some of their chocolate without crossing any borders. (and I can vouch for the tastiness of the chocolate. Yum.)
Tuqtuquilal Eco tour Agency
My family enjoyed both of our chocolate experiences immensely, but we hadn’t had a chance to really get to the “root” of chocolate’s origin story. We knew what the cacao bean looked and tasted like after being pulled from its fruit, fermented, and cleaned, but we still wanted to get up close and personal with the fruit itself. We wouldn’t get the chance until we headed to a farm in Honduras. But since that’s a bit off the beaten path for someone visiting Guatemala, here’s a farm where you can experience cacao in its natural state.
Tuqtuquilal Eco-tour Agency does some really fun things with its bean-to-bar chocolate experience that sets it apart from the others.
What caught my attention from the start is that they go all the way back to the beginning of the cacao tree’s life. They help their guests to plant a cacao tree of their own on Tuqtuquilal’s farm and take a tour of a cacao grove. The tour covers the whole process of making a chocolate bar, and what it takes to raise the cacao. And it’s not just the cacao. They also help their guests to understand where other parts of the bar come from, too.
Another part of the tour takes raw sugar cane and presses it into a block of sugar. This is the sugar used to flavor the farm’s chocolate. They also grow many of the other ingredients that go into their bars.
It really looks like an amazing tour.
Since it is so important to the history and culture of Guatemala, there is no shortage of places where a curious traveler could learn about chocolate. If you happen across one of those in your travels, I 100% suggest you take the opportunity to see what you can!
If you’re interested in learning more about chocolate but aren’t quite ready to travel internationally for it, be sure to check out Field Notes – Chocolate!
It’s full of great information, including an overview of what chocolate is, its history from around the world, and even some fun activities. Everything included is a result of all my sweet, sweet, research so you know it’s good!