In spring of 2014, I was lucky enough to be chosen to go with the Indiana University chapter of Timmy Global Health as a member of a team of 20 students and 7 medical professionals to Xela, Guatemala to serve the locals and provide basic medical care. What I didn’t expect was to get as much out of the trip as I gave, being repaid in cultural education and amazing chocolate.
Dona Pancha Chocolate is a 5th generation family run chocolate shop that specializes in traditionally made chocolate that is sure to satisfy any fan of the sweet substance. We were lucky enough to be given a tour and it was one of the tastiest days of my life.
We entered a store that I can only imagine smelled exactly like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. It was absolutely intoxicating. We walked past display cases filled with beautiful chocolate concoctions before entering a back room, taking a seat and watching as employees wheeled in chocolate fountains dripping with the silkiest milk chocolate I had ever seen, along with plates and plates of dippers.
Once everyone had eaten their fill of chocolate, the owner of the shop came in, dressed beautifully in traditional Guatemalan garb. She told us the full history of chocolate and we soon found out that it was discovered in Guatemala by the Mayans, was used as a currency and was proclaimed to be a gift from the gods to the the Mayan rulers. She also told us about the history of her family which has been in the chocolate business for 5 generations now. That’s over 100 years of history in one family.
It turns out that one of the world’s sweetest treats, also has a dark side (pun intended). The business of chocolate has become so corrupt in Guatemala that they are struggling to stay afloat. They depend on groups like ours to bring them business and pass spread the word about their wonderful business. Their business has earned many awards and appeared in many international chocolate festivals.
After the presentation, we were presented with more free chocolate, and were served a handmade clay mug full of traditional Guatemalan hot chocolate: thick, rich, a bit spicy and delicious. We then went to the shop and bought chocolate to bring home to our families (and stash under our pillows at night, obviously). It was such a great experience and we were all more than satisfied. Whole suitcases came home full of chocolate from this wonderful shop.
In short, if you ever find yourself in Xela, Guatemala be sure to stop by Dona Pancha Chocolate. You will not regret it at all.