At Wally’s Bicycle Works in San Luis Obispo there is more than what meets the eye. At his shop Wally Ajanel keeps a stash of something other than bicycle paraphernalia—something that he claims is 100 percent pure which is very rare for constituents of this kind. Ajanel claims that the Mayan Chocolate that he keeps in his office is probably the only fully pure chocolate source in the U.S.
Once a year Ajanel travels to Guatemala to visit relatives and to refuel on his chocolate. While there, he visits his full-blooded Mayan cousin Maria Ajanel, who lives in the San Sebastian area. Ajanel says his cousin is the only one in the area who makes all pure chocolate. “Others might know how to make pure chocolate, but in order to make more money they add corn or sesame seeds to stretch it out and that recipe gets passed down,” said Ajanel.
Looking at the traditional ways of the Mayans when it comes to chocolate compared with the industry today is like a trip in time. Recently Mars Inc. funded the U.S. Department of Agriculture with over $10 million for the analysis of more than 400 million parts of the cocoa genome in order to aid in the fight against crop diseases and even lead to better-tasting chocolate. When the data is obtained, scientists will better understand every aspect of cocoa, from its sustainability against drought to the way it tastes.
Statistical information from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) has shown the U.S. chocolate industry to be a multi-billion dollar field, one that is metaphoric of the value of chocolate to Mayans for hundreds, or even thousands of years ago. “Chocolate is a big thing if you think about it,” said Ajanel who compares the coco bean to the value of metal nowadays. “It used to be used as money to trade because it was so valuable.”
When Ajanel visits his family in Guatemala he still takes part in Ancient Mayan ceremonies in which chocolate, made by his cousin, is consumed in liquid form. Ajanel says that what makes the rituals authentic has lot to do with the 100 percent pure nature of the chocolate. “When we gather around and drink the chocolate the feeling you get when you drink it gives me a warm feeling. True chocolate should be soothing, it must be the oils,” he said.
Cocoa is not grown in the U.S. and is found mainly in Africa and Latin America. Ajanel said when he travels to San Sebastian he notices more and more U.S. companies that have built chocolate plants there in order to make use of the trees that are becoming less every year. “The trees are so old there’s not many anymore,” said Ajanel who hopes to have the opportunity someday to sell the chocolate his cousin makes in the U.S.
The Mayan culture is commonly noted as being the first civilization to have invented chocolate, making Maria Ajanel’s knowledge of the ancient Mayan recipe invaluable. Ajanel compares the recipe his cousin uses and the formula that is used elsewhere to a cookie. “The chocolate my cousin makes is like an Oreo cookie with no white in the middle,” he said. “Our chocolate is 100 percent pure like 100 percent gold.”