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#407325 - 05/09/11 11:19 PM Cacao Fest 2011
Marty Offline
The Cacao Festival takes place from Friday 20 May through to Sunday 22 May. We have a special four-page programme of events for this year's festival which kicks off with the wine and chocolate event at the Coral House in Punta Gorda accompanied this year by a firework display. Use our BTIA members list to find accommodation for the weekend.

Click here for the program

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#407467 - 05/11/11 02:18 PM Re: Cacao Fest 2011 [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
It's time to stimulate your senses and head down to Belize's beautiful deep south for the 5th Toledo Cacao Festival. Grown by Maya farmers, the Criollo and Trinitario cacao speicies have over the years naturally crossed to produce new varieties. These new strains along with Toledo's rich soil and the organic methods used by the local farmers have produced a bean with a rich, pungent chocolate flavour which is much sought after by chocolatiers.

The dates for this year's event are the 20th-22nd May 2011. The full schedule of events appears in the May issue of the Toledo Howler (see above). Inside you will also find an article on Making Chocolate in Toledo, which focuses on the Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory in PG. They will be open over the festival weekend, offering demonstrations and chocolate goodies. The factory is open the rest of the year too so don't worry if you miss a visit this time.

The festival always launches with the Wine & Chocolate Evening on Friday. This year the event will be held at Coral House Inn at the south end of Front St. near the hospital. Another special event will be the Cacao Fest dinners being offered at The Lodge at Big Falls on Saturday & Sunday evenings. Space is limited so call in advance for reservations. With mouth watering food, live music, sea and jungle tours, art & archaeology exhibits and more, the Cacao Fest is not to be missed.

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#407670 - 05/13/11 03:02 PM Re: Cacao Fest 2011 [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Head South for Toledo’s Cacao Fest


Toledo Cacao-Fest: Distinctive Chocolate, Diverse Cultures
It's time to stimulate your senses and head down to Belize's beautiful deep south for the 5th Toledo Cacao Festival. Grown by Maya farmers, the Criollo and Trinitario cacao species have over the years naturally crossed to produce new varieties. These new strains along with Toledo's rich soil and the organic methods used by the local farmers have produced a bean with a rich, pungent chocolate flavor which is much sought after by chocolatiers.

Packed with activities for the young and old alike, Cacao Fest pays tribute of the organic Cacao farmers and Belizean Chocolatiers and is a celebration of cacao, culture and the rich flavors of the Toledo District. The dates for this year's event are the 20th - 22nd May 2011.

Friday, May 20 – Wine and Chocolate
The festival launches with the Wine and Chocolate Evening on Friday, May 20, at the Coral House Inn. Wine and Chocolate has become a festival favorite with good food, wine, music and of course, great chocolate made from distinctive Toledo Cacao. This year’s signature opening event will feature the fabulous singer Nelita Castillo and will be rounded off with a firework display.
A range of sweet and savory finger food and decadent chocolate treats from Belize’s four finest chocolatiers – Kakaw (from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye), Goss, Cotton Tree and Cyrilla’s Chocolate – along with a selection of Premium Wines, and cacao fruit liqueurs from Old Master, the Belizean family-owned distillers.

Saturday, May 21 – Taste of Toledo
With chocolate and cacao exhibits, arts and crafts, cacao for kids and bargained priced tours you’ll get a true Taste of Toledo! Meet Belize’s four chocolatiers, tour the factory and view cacao related products including jewelry and cacao soap.

There will be many things to see and learn about learn about the production and processing of how to make the traditional kukah ukul drink. Or take some tortilla making lessons. Broaden your minds with fine art and archeology exhibits form the National Institute of Culture and History. There is live music such as neo-tropical afro beats and Garifuna drumming. Cacao For Kids – Free storytelling and arts and crafts for the children at the Punta Gorda Library and of course lots to eat and drink.

Take advantage of the Festival Tours – PG is Toledo’s gateway to lush rainforest and beautiful offshore cayes. Sample some the Southern delights with special festival tours. Take a Cacao Trail tour with TIDE Tours and visit Cyrila’s cacao farm and chocolate factory in the lovely village of San Felipe. Or take a Sea Toledo Trip – Snorkeling trips to Frenchman’s Caye in the port of Honduras Marine Reserve with trained tour guides form Garbutt’s Marine.

Ambergris Today

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#407895 - 05/16/11 03:21 AM Re: Cacao Fest 2011 [Re: Marty]
Hickatee Offline
And there’s a day of activities on the Sunday (22nd) at Lubaantun, near the village of San Pedro Columbia – guided archaeology tours of the site, traditional Maya music and dance, local crafts and food, a performance by the Folkloric Ballet of Quintana Roo, and steel pan music by the Pantempters and the Panerrifix.

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#408284 - 05/20/11 02:42 PM Re: Cacao Fest 2011 [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Cacao Fest 2011

As an export crop, Cacao may not enjoy the cultural prominence of sugar, the history of banana, the contentiousness of citrus or the glamour of lobster, but Belize's Cacao is world renowned and thanks to fair trade practices sells for a premium price to Green and Black's - a UK company.

All those accomplishments are going to be celebrated tomorrow at the the fifth annual Toledo Cacao Fest. It is a two day festival which opens with a wine and chocolate evening tomorrow. And then on Saturday the taste of Toledo Event takes place with a variety of cookery and chocolate demonstrations. Today Lisel Alamilla, Chair of the Cocoa Fest Committee, stopped by our studios to tell us more about the event.

Lisel Alamilla, Chair of the Cocoa Fest Committee
"This is the 5th annual Cacao Fest and we have a weekend full of activities. It starts with wine and chocolate on Friday at Coral House and Saturday we have full day activities around Punta Gorda Town including a triathlon that starts officially at 11 o' clock by Texaco gas station and you can explore Punta Gorda Town, there are lots of foods and drinks, music. It's really trying to get people into the community and also if you are interested you can do half day tours snorkeling or going on the Cacao trails. The Cacao is grown in Toledo District and we have four chocolatiers in the country of Belize who are producing high quality chocolates, all of is sold locally. Cacao, Gauss, Cotton Tree and Serellas - the four brands that are sold here in Belize."

"The festivals have been very good and it keeps growing every year and I know a lot of people who have been returning because they had such a good time and this year on Sunday we are continuing to have our activities at Lubaantun and we are having the Quintana Roo Folkloric Group doing a performance in the plaza and a finale concert with the Pantempers and the Panaferic Steel pan. The setting is really spectacular, so it's an event that anyone can participate in. You can bring your entire family and its really low cost - its $10 for adults and $2 for children."

If you are looking for hotel accommodations for this weekend, you can call the BTIA office in Punta Gorda for assistance.


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#408398 - 05/21/11 02:43 PM Re: Cacao Fest 2011 [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Chocolate Dreams

Right now in Punta Gorda town - Organizers of the 2011 Cacao Festival are hosting the Wine and Chocolate Festival - an evening full of decadent chocolate creations from Belize's foremost chocolate makers. Our team of Monica Bodden and Victor Noble are in the middle of it - and the best that we can do down here is imagine all that chocolate goodness they are getting into.

We'll see their story next week - but tonight we'll look back into our archives to July of 2009 when we visited one of those chocolate makers called Cotton Tree right in Punta Gorda Town. The showed us how they make dark, lustrous chocolate from Cacao grown right in the Toledo district:…

In May we took you on the cacao trail to see what Toledo’s farmers go through to produce one of Belize most prized exports, cacao beans. Farmed organically by Mayans in the Toledo District, these beans are among the best in the world. Well tonight, we´ll take on that other step in the life of a cacao bean - into the process where those same beans are used locally to produce a chocolate product that is 100% Belizean. The product is called Cotton Tree Chocolates, but the first thing you have to know is that they have nothing to do with that village at mile 43 on the Western Highway. These chocolates are named off the towering and imperious tree that straddles the jungles of Toledo. And while the chocolate producers have similar ambitions for their chocolate venture, they plan to progress by humble means. We visited the factory and its three workers.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
The process begins with these, cacao beans grown by farmers in the Toledo District. These ones come from Eladio Pop’s farm. You may remember him, he is the cacao grower who is loco for his cacao puffs. Well some of his cacao nuts end up here, at Wilma Wonka’s Chocolate Center in downtown Punta Gorda. They are the producers of Cotton Tree Chocolates, self-titled as a chocolate center of the universe.

Julie Puryear,
“We make chocolate from cacao beans that grown right here in southern Belize and we go all the way through many processes which you will see to make it into chocolate bars.”

It starts here with the dried fermented cacao nuts which are roasted right here in this small oven for thirty minutes. Anika Harry is one of three employees here at Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory.

Anika Henry, Employee
“After the roasting stopped for thirty minutes, we bring it and we put it in this grinding machine and we grind it like this.”

It is a rudimentary grinder with a battery operated power drill, a pot to gather the nuts. The drill grinds them up and this is what you get – a bucket full of ground beans called nibs. They get the special treatment from a blow dryer.

Anika Henry,
“You can see the shells blowing.”

And when that’s done they are cleaned and have a lovely lustrous earthy colour and not only does it look good, it is good enough to eat but it doesn’t taste anything like chocolate. And while I would happily eat them out, these nibs have work to do.

Anika Henry,
“We take the nibs and we put it into this mixing machine and we press it like this.”

This machine separates the starch which is useless from what’s called the cacao liquor which is what it’s all about. It is hard for the uninitiated to tell them apart but the shiny liquor is the one the chocolate will be made of eventually. It is a manual process, one many in this production chain, but it is a key one because it transforms the roasted ground beans into a liquid and it provides the key ingredient, one of five that will be combined to make a chocolate. Those five are sugar, powdered milk, vanilla beans, and coco butter in a hardened form which is also made right here at the factory, the product of another time consuming and difficult manual process,

Anika Henry,
“We add the ingredients here in this machine, the sugar, the cocoa butter, the liquor, the milk, and the vanilla beans. So this machine spins twenty four hours a day for three days.”

This machine oddly is called a conch, just like the conch in the sea but it has nothing to do with that. Instead it is a fast humming beauty. Imported from India it has granite stone grinding wheels which steadily stirs the chocolate mix, slowly refining it until it has no grit. This is the heart of the operation, the strange and oddly sensual alchemy of chocolate making where the mix becomes a lustrous deep mahogany texture. And while I found it almost hypnotic, the process is central, it’s functional because it cuts the sharp taste of the cacao and produces the delicious chocolate flavour we all know so well. I was allowed to dip straight from this fountain of flavour.

But before I ate them out, they quickly poured out the glistening caramel coloured conch mix. It goes here to this device known as a tempering machine. It is an electronic mixing and heating appliance that makes sure the chocolate you get doesn’t look like this. It does that through a precise computer controlled process of heating and cooling. From the tempering machine it goes into the mould which is the beginning of the chocolate.

Vilma Velez, Employee
“You take the chocolate and make it to vibrate.”

And while not computer controlled, this isn’t easy. I tried and it was an unmitigated disaster. Fortunately my mould was thrown away, had to be thrown away, and the proper moulds were put together. Once the mould is full.

Vilma Velez,
“You set it on the shelf to get dry.”

And from there it is almost done, leaving us with this: shiny crisp looking chocolate bars. After that it is packaged which is another level of precision which I hadn’t even attempt. And after its foil wrapped, its time for the brand name to be applied.

Julie Puryear,
“This is our packaging; it depends on which type of chocolates that we are making. This one is with milk. If it is light milk we use the light milk packaging because we have three kinds. This is how we package them. We use the glue gun.”

And there it is, the finished product made in Belize from beginning to end, all with the love and tenderness of hand preparation. The milk chocolate we saw prepared is only one of a host of products made by Cotton Tree Chocolate. There are the standard 45, 55 and 70% chocolate mixes and all kinds of artisan chocolates, the ones with the beans on top are stuffed with Mayan coffee and each product is made painstakingly by hand including these dried stripes of mangoes coated in chocolate and this new experimental products, One Barrel Chocolates.

Julie Puryear,
“They are fun to eat and they are fun to look at and we think it is a great product because it is a combination of two great Belizean things; chocolate and one barrel rum.”

All of them taste great but maybe not to you. Dark organic chocolate is an acquired taste. This isn’t a Snickers bar.

Julie Puryear,
“Well they are less sweet than what people are accustomed to. We have one bar is 40% light chocolate which people would be more familiar with. It is sweeter and creamy. Our dark chocolate is 70% chocolate so it is not quite as sweet and it is just an acquired taste.”

The Cacao festival continues tomorrow with the Taste of Toledo which includes a chocolate Center at the same Chocolate Factory you just saw and many other attractions…. Events continue right up until Sunday - so it isn't too late to head out there. You can find the full schedule at 7newsbelize.com http://www.toledochocolate.com/

Channel 7

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#408606 - 05/25/11 02:52 PM Re: Cacao Fest 2011 [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Chocoholics enjoy Cacao Festival

The Toledo Cacao Festival took place over the weekend in southern Belize, the home of the organic cacao and of the prized Belizean chocolate. The festival attracted throngs of both tourists and Belizeans lured by the delights of chocolate as well as by the many ways to transform the cacao bean into delectable treats. Toledo cacao growers as well as the exporters of the fine chocolates were on hand to showcase their product. News Five’s Isani Cayetano also headed south and will walk you through one of the greatest traditions of the Mayas.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

For over three thousand years the cacao plant has been instrumental to the Mayas of Southern Belize. Its usage ranges from active ingredient in herbal medicine to dietary supplement and even currency. The dried and fermented, fatty bean is also the basis for chocolate; a delicacy enjoyed by many the world over.

Vilma Velez, Chocolatier, Cotton Tree Chocolates

“Hi I’m Vilma Velez and welcome to Cotton Tree Chocolate. I’ll show you a brief tour of how we make cacao to chocolate.”

Like others in the industry the process currently being used is mechanized. Despite a more modern approach cacao remains central to this indigenous people.

Alvaro Pop

Alvaro Pop, Chairman, Toledo Cacao Growers Association

“Cacao has been the traditional, cultural product of the Mayas I would say because way, way back during our ancestral days. Cacao has been the dominant product of Belize or Toledo here and when it comes to commercialization of cacao it has been a trend, a transition but whereby we adopted the new technology, the modern technology whereby we can assist or improve the quality of the cacao.”

To fully appreciate the value of this leguminous plant we headed to a remote field in the Toledo District where it is grown organically.

Juan Cho

Juan Cho, Owner, Cyrila’s Chocolates (File: May 25th, 2010)

We look at everything that we harvest from our farm; weeds that we can cut down we leave it on the floor to decompose. And of course the decomposition process is much more highly activated due to the fact that we are blessed with the rains and of course the heat. So these pods that you may look around you will experience leaves on the floor as well that drop off on an occasional basis from our trees, we leave them down to decompose.”

Once the pods have been gathered they are halved. The seeds are collected and then sun dried before being transported to town where they are stored for export to the world market.

Alvaro Pop

“Belize has been very, very [respected] and it has gained its recognition internationally because of the cacao and also its certification of being organic and [its] fair trade [practices] and that has created a better picture of Toledo and the Toledo District in general.”

So much so that an annual celebration was created in its honor back in 2006 which has since grown to become a catholic experience showcasing the cultural fusion that is Southern Belize. For Ignacio Ash however, the planning of this year’s event was a little off.

Ignacio Ash

Ignacio Ash, Cacao Farmer

“Cacao Fest is for showing the people, right, what the farmers produce so that is basically Cacao Fest but this is not well organized because it is not in one group so it‘s just scattered all over the place. It was better last year or two years ago because they did better but now it’s all scattered and that’s why the visitors claim they’d prefer coming to one place and see everything right but now it‘s not together.”

On the other hand dotting Punta Gorda with various activities was the desired effect its organizers were going for, allowing visitors to experience firsthand how chocolate is made. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Cacao Fest was organized in part by the Toledo Cacao Growers Association, the Belize Tourism Board, NICH and the Ya’Axche Conservation Trust.

Channel 5


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