Chocolates Para Ti is the largest of numerous chocolate factories in Sucre, Bolivia
. Sucre, known as Bolivia's "ciudad blanca" or "white city" due to its many white colonial buildings, is fast becoming known as Bolivia's "city of chocolates".
Rewind to 1997 when, on a whim during a trip to Sucre, as I was purchasing chocolates at the local market, I turned to my friend Michelle and said, "You know, I would really like to know how chocolates are made". We decided right then and there to see if we could somehow find the Para Ti factory, and eventually did.
At the time I showed up at their door and unabashedly asked if I could see how chocolates are made, it was a small brick building with just a few employees and a small room where finished, packaged chocolates were kept. I don't think they'd ever had someone ask them for a tour before, but they very openly welcomed us in and showed us the chocolate making process step by step, explaining how each machine worked and what it did. We watched as women shaped the chocolates by hand, wrapped them and packaged them in hand-made boxes and bags. It was a truly fun experience, not to mention that I am a complete and utter chocoholic, and I left that day saying to Michelle, "You know, this could be a really interesting tourist attraction!"
Fast forward to 2011. Fourteen years have gone by and Chocolates Para Ti is now the largest chocolate factory in Sucre, with numerous high-end boutique chocolate shops throughout the city, and Para Ti brand chocolates in every major grocery store, many gift shops, and even open markets in the country. And, I was not surprised to learn, they give tours!
Although Sucre has other chocolate factories, Para Ti stands out for several reasons. Their chocolate is smooth and creamy. Their packaging is outstanding: every bar of chocolate has a photograph of somewhere you can visit in Sucre, or in Bolivia. The company has done as much to promote tourism to Sucre as any other attraction, in the process becoming a tourist attraction itself. Para Ti doesn't just sell chocolates. Para Ti markets Sucre and Bolivia's top tourist attractions.
Today the Chocolates Para Ti factory stands tall and magnificent on a corner of a hill about 15 minutes from the central plaza, in the Garcilazo zone of the city. The factory has a hallway with a glass partition where you can view the employees making and packaging chocolates. Sadly, the factory used to give full factory tours but no longer does because they are now ISO 14,000 certified, which means the public can no longer be allowed inside the actual factory. However, Chocolates Para Ti has a video they will show you of the history of the factory and of chocolates in Bolivia, before taking you down the sweet-smelling viewing hall.
Gastón Solares Ávila, one of the principal owners of the company, has written a book called "Sucre, la Ciudad del Chocolate" (Sucre, City of Chocolate) in which he details the history of chocolate, and with great effort was able to include information and photographs documenting not only the history of Chocolates Para Ti, but also some of the city's other chocolate factories. I'm told it was very difficult for him to gain access to some of the historical information about the other chocolate-factory owning families because, of course, no one wants to reveal their industrial secrets, especially when the author is the owner of the company directly in competition with theirs. However, his 186-page book, which is sold in bookstores and Chocolates Para Ti chocolate shops throughout the city, gives an amazingly thorough account of life in Sucre, how the various companies were formed, the relationships between the families that own them, where chocolate may be headed in the future, how chocolate is made, and more. All about the history of Sucre.
Gastón Solares Ávila was born in Sucre. He received his undergraduate degree in Economic and Financial Sciences from the San Francisco Xavier Univerisity in Sucre. He also studied for some time in the United States. He has served as President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, President of the state of Chuquisaca's Bicentennial Committee, and is currently the President of the Sucre Geographical and Historic Society. He also writes for various national newspapers in Bolivia.
The Chocolates Para Ti factory gives brief tours throughout the day, but it's better to take a tour in the morning if you want to see chocolate-making in full swing.