Our cruise ship recently docked at the island of Cozumel off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, providing us an opportunity to discover some of the destination’s cultural treasures, where we embarked on a day filled with sampling exotic honey, chocolate, and tequila.
We started our day wandering the waterfront of downtown Cozumel, browsing some souvenir shops selling standard tourist fare before visiting a spice shop. While the spices were vibrant, most weren’t actually native to the area, and just kind of felt like they were capitalizing on tourists feeling like they were getting something exotic. We had a more enjoyable time walking along the water looking at the scenery.
Next we headed inland to a Mayan bee sanctuary that maintains a variety of bees, the stingless Melipona bees among them. These bees are much smaller than the honey bees found in other parts of the world and look almost like tiny flies buzzing around the wooden hives. The bee population here is not so plentiful since there aren’t a lot of flowers in the area. They claim the Melipona bee honey produced here can actually be dropped directly into eyes as a treatment for various ocular ailments and has supposed antibacterial properties, but I’m skeptical on that. We sampled various honeys, though none compared what we got from Corsica.
Next, we explored the Mayan Cacao Company, delving into the ancient art of chocolate-making. Cacao was revered by the ancient Maya and even used as currency. The guide walked us through the historical process of creating Mayan chocolate – a rich paste rather than the familiar bars we are accustomed to. The gift shop did allow us to sample traditional chocolate bars and indulge in chocolate-flavored margaritas amidst vibrant parrots at the entrance.
Our Cozumel adventure continued with a visit to a tequila distillery. While the free samples were appreciated, we got to sample better variants once we chatted with the staff at the gift shop. The samples ranged from blanco to reposado (aged up to 1 year), but we weren’t able to sample the añejo (aged 1-3 years). This longer aging period contributes to a richer and more complex flavor profile, and takes on oaky flavours from the casks. Though despite all that, the prices there were tourist trap prices. The tequila there costed more than what I would have paid back home and I’m not sure the craft tequila premium was worth it. Also, true tequila aficionados it comes from Jalisco and not from the Yucatan.
Cozumel offered a glimpse into the Mayan traditions and Mexican Tequila. The best part of the tour was able to sample something at every place we went to.
See more of Cozumel here