On the second week of my stay, my friend Julia and I rented a car and drove deep into the Yucatan. Our plan was to see ancient ruins (I would not have missed that for the world) and visit Valladolid, the town where we planned to stay for the night. Valladolid (not to be confused with the city of the same name in Spain), the Yucatan’s third largest city, has much more to offer than we first thought. It turns out that it not only has a wide range of handmade gifts (especially textiles and ceramics), a cenote in the middle of the city, a beautiful array of catrinas, tequila and handmade chocolate, but it also serves as a hub when visiting nearby vistas, like Chichen Itza, Rio Lagartos and Ek Balam. But more about those later.
The Mayan Chocolate Factory
http://www.diamantedechocolate.com (only in Spanish)
Since Julia speaks Spanish, we opt for the guided tour, which incidentally takes mere 5 minutes, including the 2 minutes our guide has to leave us for to take a phone call. It is a bit of a letdown to be perfectly honest. The name seems somewhat pretentious now since the “factory” is rather a tiny museum with only 2 rooms, one for the tools of chocolate making and a display of accessories commonly used worldwide to make and drink chocolate; the other for tasting and selling chocolate made in the factory. Regardless our initial disappointment with the tour, and the haste of the tasting experience, the chocolate is still great. The texture is a bit grainy for the cacao beans are ground by hand. It is also denser than store-bought chocolate, since the only ingredients added to the cacao are organic honey, muscovado sugar and spices (if flavoured). If you don’t mind all that, I recommend the ginger (gengibre) and the tequila flavoured versions.
The Los Tres Toños tequila experience
(address: corner of streets 46 and 41A, Valladolid, Yucatán, México)
After the visit to the chocolate factory we are contemplating to even try the tequila experience. This time however, our guide leads us through the entire production, shows us the smoking chamber, the pressing wheel traditionally powered by mules, the fermentation, distillation and ageing process. The explanation is illustrated by pictures and lively displays. We also learn the company not only produces a fully organic product (that comes in a beautiful, heavy, handmade bottle), but only caters for the local market. A quick Google search seems to support that statement.
Yet again, we get to try the merchandise: tequila from five different stages of the ageing process, liquors and cocktails. I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of tequila but the sweet smoothness they promised lived up to my expectations. I can say it’s the best I’ve ever tried. When in Valladolid, make sure to take this free tour, you won’t be disappointed.
A bit exhausted from the roaring heat and sightly tipsy from the tequila we head off to find a place to eat, something less “touristy”. After about 10 minutes we stumble upon Yerbabuena del Sisal, a restaurant with a cosy back garden surrounded by banana trees and a gorgeous mosaic tiled washbasin in the toilet. They serve mostly vegetarian food, and the best fruit and vegetable smoothies in town. And free wifi… The 3 course lunch menu is delicious and also for a very reasonable price. Now I’m only slightly worried about the chocolate melting in my bag.