Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Some Chocolatey Snacks

I wouldn't say I'm a chocolate connoisseur. I'll pretty much eat any chocolate you put in front of me, and often go for quantity over quality! However, I am very appreciative whenever I get luxury chocolates as a gift, such as Godiva, Purdy's, or even Laura Secord. :)
Three local chocolate bars found in Panajachel, Guatemala

Finding good chocolate bars in Guatemala has been a surprising challenge. Don't they grow cocoa here? Shouldn't they have this down pat?
There are really good specialty chocolate bars sold in Chalo's and Sandra's grocery stores. But the average chocolate bar you pick up at a tienda tastes cheap and waxy. Bert says they all taste like Dollar Store chocolate! Perhaps it's their chocolate making techniques? The delicate balance between cocoa fat, sugar, and milk? To be certain, professional chocolatiers know how to get it right!

We've tried several local chocolate bars, plus indulged in truffles and bars from Dina's Chocolate Shop at the intersection of Santander, Real, and Arboles. (SO GOOD!) The Despensa and most tiendas (corner stores) sell Snickers regular and almond, Granada, Hershey's plain and white, plus the more local brands of Choy's and Emperadora. American brand chocolate bars cost around Q8, or about $1.50 Canadian. Local chocolate bars cost much less, down to Q3 for a Sprinter!

Here's some of the bars I've tried and my chocoholic opinion of them.

Layer -- Gross! As soon as I opened this, I knew this was NOT going to be good. The smell of bad chocolate is very distinct. Plus, the wrapper said galletas -- cookies -- but that actually meant wafers, not the Oreo type cookie bits I was hoping for. I had a brief thought that it might taste like a Kit Kat but was gravely disappointed. It was "chocolatey" not chocolate. The wafers were soft, not crispy. Ick. Couldn't eat more than one bite. Into the trash. (Made in Guatemala.)
Layer chocolate bar by Sharp

Fantasia -- Surprised when I opened this to find that it wasn't chocolate at all. I guess if I had read the package I would have noticed chocolate was not one of the ingredients. It tasted like peanut brittle, or perhaps a nougat. It was hard to bite yet chewy when it warmed up in my mouth. I like it! (Made in Guatemala.)
Fantasia bar by Sharp

Sprinter -- Our standby for a good chocolate fix. Only Q3. Basically a Snickers clone. Very good. (I read the back of the wrapper and they're made in Turkey. Go figure!)
Sprinter bar. Chocolate-coated caramel and nougat and nuts. Cheap and good!
My favourite cheap chocolate bar from a tienda? The Choco Menta. Love these little suckers. Not too many stores sell them though. I've taken to carrying an old wrapper around in my purse to show shopkeepers to see if they carry it. If I just ask for "choco menta" they offer me either a Snickers or gum. *rolls eyes*
The best!! Choco Menta. Sooooo good.  (Made in Guatemala by Granada) Inside the Menta bar. They're quite small but we found a store that sells them for only Q2.
And now, the pièce de résistance, an Ixcacao milk chocolate coconut bar. Bought at Sandra's for Q13.75 or around $2.38 Canadian. A mere 30 grams. (Made in Antigua.)
Ixcacao chocolate bar. Simple, understated packaging hides a gem of chocolate richness. Oh, they aren't kidding about the "habit forming" part!
Not much to look at but, oh my goodness, it is sooooo delicious!
Rich chocolate, not at all waxy, melts lusciously on your fingertips and in your mouth,
loaded with toasted coconut inside. It's true that quality is worth the price. YUM.
I think I may have to try all the flavours!
I felt too nervous to take a picture of the chocolate section at Sandra's because the cashier lady was standing right there, but you can't miss it. It's right straight as you walk in. Same goes for the tiendas, it just didn't feel right to whip out a camera and take pictures of their countertops!
But I did manage to snap these photos of two other chocolate displays.
The snacks display at the checkout at the Despensa Familiar, the grocery store. Looks like Canada, doesn't it?
(It's cuz Despensa's parent company is Walmart.)
Some of the fancy artisan chocolates sold at Chalo's, plus regular Hershey's bars, etc. They're actually locked inside the glass case and you have to ask the cashier to unlock it for you.
See the brightly-wrapped cylinders of chocolate in the picture above? That's Diego's Chocolates. If you love good chocolate and want to try a taste of real artisan chocolate from Guatemala -- in fact from San Pedro la Laguna, right across the lake from where I am right now -- then you can go to their webpage, Diego's Chocolates, to discover all about them, or just jump right to the deliciousness and order online from their Etsy store
And now a word of caution. (Insert serious face here.)

I found this bar of chocolate at Chalo's grocery and thought, Wow, what a great price for a huge bar of chocolate!
Well, it's not EXACTLY chocolate. It's hot chocolate mix! If I had been reading more carefully, I would have figured that out. Instead, I opened it up and took a big bite. BLECK! However, it is fabulous when put in a mug with hot milk and a bit of sugar. Often, they're flavoured with cinnamon too. Yummy!
Don't take a bite of this!  :D
For those of you coming to Guatemala to visit or live, don't fret about missing chocolate from "back home". Guatemala's chocolatiers have got you covered! Remember to pay a bit more for quality, but don't be nervous to spend a few Q to try some bars at the corner store. You may be pleasantly surprised. Buen provecho! (Bon appétit! Enjoy your food!)

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