|Mayan glyph for cacao|
I've read that cacao pods were used as currency here. So puzzled me that it seemed so difficult to find good chocolate in Merida. There's a little shop near the Plaza Grande where you can buy processed cocoa and small bags of dark and milk chocolate molded in the shape of little corn cobs. It's nice for gifts to take home but not exactly the fix for that mid-afternoon craving.
People mentioned a larger fine chocolate maker in the suburbs, and I even got an address, but could not figure out a way to get there without a car or spending most of a day getting lost on unfamiliar buses.
I could find no evidence of modern cacao cultivation on the peninsula, only some scant and vague historic references. I was a little disappointed to conclude it would be necessary someday to travel to Tabasco state and the Ruta del Cacao to experience my favorite food in its natural habitat. Blogger Madeline Weeks wrote a great account of doing just that.
Then in Yucatan Today I came across the story of a new museum of cacao opening on the Ruta Puuc, south of Mérida, beyond Uxmal. It appears to be created by the owner of the hard-to-reach Belgian chocolate maker in Colonia Pensiones. The museum is located on a cacao plantation.
We're really just getting started exploring around the Yucatan peninsula. It's going to be a little easier now that we have a livable home base in Mérida, and the busy-work of real-estate transactions and renovations are more or less done for now. A visit to a Yucatán cacao plantation is definitely going to be up there on my list of things to see and do, although probably not for the coming trip next month.
P.S. As I've been dithering with this post over the past while, Valerie, who operates the terrific Pickled Onion restaurant in Santa Elena near Uxmal, posted an item about the museum with much more info than mine. Thanks, Valerie!