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Photos and Words by Shantel Dickerson.

According to Colombia’s Official Investment Portal, Colombians consume an average of 2 kilos of cacao per year. Surprisingly, most of it is consumed in liquid form, as Colombians love melting chunks of chocolate in agua de panella (water sweetened with unrefined sugar cane). 

Artisan chocolate products can be found throughout the country and the Eco Language Spanish students, volunteers, and hostel guests had the privilege of visiting one such chocolate maker by the name of Guillermo.

Winding up into the mountains of San Rafael in cramped but convenient motocaros, the group was welcomed by the bright and curious eyes of the chocolate makers’s children. The kids raced excitedly down their muddy, steep driveway on their bicycle and toy car to greet the newcomers.

A small house began to appear as the children lead the group up the driveway where Guillermo was waiting. Guillermo was so excited to begin sharing his livelihood that he hardly waited for everyone to make it up the hill before he began his talk.

Within seconds, he was passing around different types of chocolate he had made at his home with the help of his family. Chocolate covered coffee beans and powdered chocolate were just a couple of the many confections displayed on his welcome table.

Guillermo partners with various farms around Antioquia who grow and harvest the chocolate beans that he then uses for his chocolate making process. 

Guillermo hurriedly introduced the different machines he uses for toasting the beans, as well as the ones for melting and shaping the chocolate. His presentation appeared rushed, but for good reason. He was more interested in getting the group comfortably seated around his table and eating his chocolate.

After drizzling some of the creamy, melted chocolate onto freshly sliced  bananas, Guillermo disappeared into the kitchen. He returned with a bolinillo and an olleta (chocolatera), the necessary tools for making Colombian hot chocolate.

While pouring and passing out cups of hot chocolate with panela, Guillermo gave more context to how he started his business. Apparently, his father had wished for Guillermo to go to university. 

Farmers in San Rafael had been caught right in the middle of the violence that plagued Colombia throughout the most recent decades. Therefore, going to university would have potentially created a chance to escape the conflict. Guillermo knew he wanted to make chocolate, though. So for the last 15 years, he’s been doing as such. 

It is the simple pleasures of partnering with his community members to make chocolate, and sharing his knowledge and passion for the delectable delight, that give him immense joy and happiness.