You can thank me later. I did you all a massive service. I’m like that, you see. I persuaded my husband and kids to walk around the centre of Merida looking for local chocolates just so we could review it all for you in order to figure out which is the best chocolate in Merida. Yes, we visited chocolate shops and tourist shops alike just to find the best of Merida for you.
See, I’m a giver…except we ate the chocolate and no, I’m not giving you any!
Why Did I Want To Find The Best Chocolate In Merida?
Well there are a number of reasons.
- Obviously it’s fun to pretend you’re eating chocolate for Very. Important. Work. Reasons.
- I thought it might be a good after school activity for my kids.
- Mexico is famous for chocolate.
Mexico And Chocolate
Did you know that chocolate is actually a Mexican invention? Seriously. I mean, not in the form of a delicious bar of Dairy Milk or anything, but chocolate really was discovered / invented in Mexico. The word chocolate has two possible origins (as far as my vast and deep knowledge of Mesoamerican languages tells me): either from the Nahuatl word chocolātl or the Mayan word xocolatl.
There is some debate as to who, in Mexico, first discovered that chocolate was worthy of advertising with a big, sexy, cartoon rabbit
(does that image mean anything to non-Brits, or even to anyone but me? It’s the Cadbury caramel bunny, people). Maybe it was the Olmecs, around 1500 BCE who are known to have mixed it with water, spices and herbs. It is thought they were the very first to cultivate the cacao plant. Glyphs in Mayan areas such as Veracruz (modern day Yucatan Peninsula is home to the Mayans) suggest chocolate consumption was in full flow by around 1750 BCE.
Early consumption of chocolate was as a bitter and fermented beverage – boozy chocolate beer anyone? The cacao pods were fermented, roasted and then ground in to a bitter paste which could be combined with other ingredients to give interesting flavours. So yeah, Lindt, you weren’t the first to make awesome flavoured chocolates!
I guess people are aware that there is a serious threat right now (no, not Trump): we are eating so much chocolate that we could well end up with a global shortage. This stuff was never meant to be gobbled up at every opportunity or pasted on to naked bodies only to be licked off again….
Actually, I can just imagine it having been used for sexy time in Mesoamerica…
No seriously, it was used in religious rituals, wedding and funeral rites and dedications to specific gods such as Quetzalcoatl and Chak Ek Chuah. In fact, the Godiva website informs me that women were not allowed to drink chocolate as it was an aphrodisiac. Feminist Mesoamericans where were you? I demand the right for ancient Mesoamerican women to have been allowed to be allowed to drink whatever the fuck they wanted.
But wait, how did it get to modern day us? Well, usually I don’t spend my time thanking stinky old imperialists like conquistador Hernan Cortes, but since he was the one who brought chocolate to Europe, I will utter a quiet thank you.
Merida and Chocolate
As I noted above, some of the very earliest users of cacao were the Mayans. A great place to get a better understanding of this is the chocolate museum opposite the ruin of Uxmal, just outside Merida. For more information, check out my article about the place.
What Did I Find On My Chocolate Hunt?
Well, I knew my starting point needed to be Ki’Xocolatl, the increasingly famous chocolate shop on the corner of Parque Santa Lucia (hidden behind the stage, in case you’re wondering). They also have two other shops in town but this is the easiest for visitors to access. Not only do they make their chocolate from scratch, they also have a delectable cafe on site where you can get some of the best chocolate based products in town.
I was spoiled for choice here, given that it’s an entire shop dedicated to top quality chocolate. I opted for three bars, all fairly plain: dark chocolate, milk with salt and peanuts and a cheaper (mixed) milk chocolate. They were clear that the cheaper bar wasn’t as good quality.
Next, I headed to Mina Kim, a small shop selling local sweets, on calle 60, just off the Plaza Grande walking towards Parque Santa Lucia. I was greeted by an incredibly friendly woman selling a truly beautiful array of local delicacies.
She didn’t have much in the way of actual chocolate, which surprised me, but she had plenty of other options. I bought a large, totally sugar free, chocolate button (I guess this is the most authentic chocolate since there was no sugar in Mexico when chocolate was first used) and a delicious mixed nut and caramel florentine type thing. My greedy husband added a marzipan apple sweet and an enormous marshmallow to our stash.
After wandering in to a number of other tourist shops and boutiques (because there are some very swish boutique type places popping up in the centre of Merida these days) I realised I was getting nowhere. We then headed down to Parque Santa Ana where I knew I would find some chocolate options.
One of my favourite tourist shops is Casa de las artisanias on calle 47. The staff are always super friendly and they have some really fun stuff at very reasonable prices. Here I found two chocolate options: both Mexican made. The first, is a ridiculously shaped Mayan calendar made of cookies and cream chocolate from Mexican chocolate company Clatier. It turns out that there are normal bars too, and normal flavours but this shop didn’t stock them. I’ll go back and try those another day. I also bought a small pack of Yum Kin chocolate drops, that were made in Campeche.
After exploring a few other shops, I found a further tourist shop, opposite Casa de las artisanias, that sold me a box of Chukwa filled chocolates.
In the Casa de las Artisanias del estado de Yucatan on calle 60, right on the Parque Santa Ana, I discovered a variety of Clatier chocolate but didn’t think to buy more as I had already bought my random cookies and cream chocolate calendar. That was a mistake. I’ll definitely head back to get more from them as the man working there was incredibly friendly and not only was the shop filled with interesting trinkets but the gallery was pretty interesting too.
I finished with the small chocolate museum on Paseo de Montejo where, if you’re interested you can have a short explanation of how chocolate is made, or you can go straight in to their small shop. The women in the shop were incredibly friendly and they’re happy to let you try the chocolate too.
Results: What Is The Best Chocolate In Merida?
Enough yabbering on. What did we think? Well, once we got home the four of us sat down to the very important job of tasting all this chocolate. Can you imagine how excited my kids were? Almost as excited as the evening we decided was chocolate evening and whisked them down to Ki’Xocolatl for a chocolate supper and more excited than the day I announced it was ice cream tasting day is about where I’d place their excitement levels!
So here goes:
Ki’Xocolatl Milk Chocolate with peanuts and salt ($74 pesos) – kids loved it and immediately decreed it was their favourite despite not having tried any of the others. Col and I both found it to be a bit pasty but actually, having just laid them all out on the table before me, it’s the one I’ve returned to to gobble again and again. After being in the fridge it is pretty damned fantastic.
Ki’Xocolatl 72% Dark Chocolate ($74 pesos) – our boy loved it, gave it two thumbs up, our randomly discerning small girl decided it tasted a bit of jamaica (hibiscus) but she still liked it. Col and I thought it was a really interesting flavour and we’d definitely go back for more.
Ki’Xocolatl cheaper milk chocolate ($48 pesos) – kids loved. Col thought it was smooth and caramel tasting. I also thought it was delicious and creamy. On first tasting this was my favourite of all the chocolates although I think after some refrigeration time it takes a slight dive in the rankings.
Yum Kin ($64 pesos) – this is purely cacao and sugar but looked and tasted pretty bad. Neither kid liked this. Col and I felt it was too sweet and crumbly with no chocolate to be tasted over all the sugar.
Clatier Cookies and Cream ($43 pesos) – I shouldn’t have bought cookies and cream flavour as I suspect the brand does other flavours better. Surprisingly neither kid liked this, our sweet fiend boy even said this was too sweet for him. Col felt it tasted like liquid cookie and didn’t enjoy it. I thought it was ok and although I wouldn’t eat more of this particular flavour I can see that it is good quality chocolate.
I’ll certainly buy the brand again.
Chukka – liquor filled chocolate pyramids ($43 pesos) – the kids didn’t want to try these as they were alcoholic but eventually the small girl did. She proclaimed it to be ‘yuck’. I agree with her. The chocolate was old, crumbly and tasted pasty with some weird solid lump of sugary alcohol in the middle. I wouldn’t ever eat these again. Col said it wasn’t the worst chocolate he’d ever had, I’m not sure I’d agree.
Mina Kim – pure cacao button ($45 pesos) – sadly this was disgusting! I so wanted to like this as the shop and the manager were lovely but the chocolate itself was, for us, inedible. Luckily, we’d also purchased other bits and pieces from here that were all delicious so while we didn’t enjoy the chocolate, I highly recommend going and checking out this little store for some other yummy treats.
The final one was Chocol Haa Maya, a chocolate made in Valladolid and sold in the museum on Paseo de Montejo for an extortionate $70 pesos. It was absolutely not worth the money. The texture, while certainly not to my liking (crumbly and sugary), was similar to the chocolate sold in Oaxaca, I guess it’s kind of a Mexican chocolate but it certainly isn’t anything I enjoy. The kids didn’t enjoy it either. Col thought it the flavour was ok if you could ignore the texture.
If we had to put them in order it would be unsurprisingly ki’Xocolatl first by a million miles, then Clatier and then, um, nothing quite frankly. If you don’t want to splash out on those two, then buy a Snickers bar from any Oxxo and keep quiet! And if chocolate isn’t your thing, can I persuade you to have an ice cream or six?
Did I miss any local chocolate? I’m a giver who keeps on giving so if I missed any that really, really must be reviewed, please let me know…for the good of the readers, obviously.