This year I entered a competition ... and won a World Silver Medal! I had no expectations of even qualifying and yet here I am back from Antigua, Guatemala where the 2019 World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards (ICA) were held.
It all started in New York when I entered one of my chocolates, Passion Fruit White Chocolate Bonbon, in this prestigious competition. In June I won a Silver Medal in the Americas which completely surprised me and then entered the World competition in Florence where I was chosen as a finalist. On impulse I decided to make the trip with my friend to Guatemala and find out more about the International Chocolate Awards. Little did I know what an amazing adventure I was going to have.
Antigua, Guatemala is a Unesco World Heritage Site - a living museum - as colorful and beautiful as a postcard. Antigua beguiled me with its magical landscape and picturesque volcanoes on the horizon. The ICA Inaugural Award Ceremonies did not disappoint and I met and mingled with chocolatier colleagues, chefs & experts from all over the world. It was there that I met the owners of Finca La Cruz, a 4th generation-owned cocoa plantation established in 1920 by the Valenzuela Family.
Peter and Maria Elena invited us to have lunch at their plantation 3 hours from Antigua. After a long and winding drive through the volcanic mountainous landscape we arrived at the plantation in the middle of a rainforest and were treated to a tour of the grounds. This grower uses no pesticides to treat their cocoa and all harvesting methods are traditional & natural. We saw cocoa blossoms, the tiniest of flowers that are cocoa in infant stage. And the large cocoa pods are chocolate all grown up!
Maria Elena cooked a marvelous traditional meal for us and finished it with her home made chocolate drink of raw cocoa and milk. It was divine. I hope to go back again and that they will visit me too in my home.
There are many poor and struggling in countries such as Guatemala. But what I saw in Antigua were people proud of their heritage, honest in their trade and who worked hard for all they earned. I have much to be thankful for that I take for granted. More than anything this trip reminded me of that.
The time was too short, only 4 days, but what a life-changing trip! We met so many other wonderful people and my passion for chocolate is forever enhanced by this experience. If you ever have the chance, go to Antigua. It is a truly special place.