The "Secret" Cheese-Making Industry in Belize
Learning to make cheese in the jungle is now possible (Courtesy: Caves Branch)
With pristine Caribbean beaches and dense tropical jungle, the Central American country of Belize offers visitors the best of both worlds.
It has become a popular destination for adventure-seeking travelers, wildlife lovers, history buffs and R&R takers alike. But one thing it has not been known for, largely due to its location in the tropics, is its dairy industry.
Until now, that is.
Three years ago, an entrepreneurial local lodge owner become one of the only artisanal cheese makers in the country. Today, after honing its craft, Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge produces 12 varieties of cheese from a small batch factory on its property. The Cheese is used to feed its own guests and sold to other hotels in Belize.
Making cheese in the tropics is not an easy task. (Courtesy: Caves Branch)
But more exciting, they offer cheese-making classes to their guests.
I talked with Ian Anderson, Caves Branch proprietor, about his journey to becoming a cheese maker, how the property’s jungle-made varieties are gaining international popularity and how you, too, can make cheese in Belize.
So, what initially inspires a jungle lodge owner to start making cheese? Heartwarmingly enough, Ian and his wife, Ella, initially got the idea after a philanthropic project they had established to help local at-risk children and seniors.
“It all started through another program that my wife established nine years ago called the Belize national youth chess foundation,” Ian Anderson said. “We invited elementary school-aged children and encouraged them through the chess clubs.”
Visitors can take a gourmet cheese-making class. (Courtesy: Caves Branch)
To help these children further, Ian and Ella decided to set up a petting zoo on their property, where the children could spend time with the animals.
But as Ian explains, nature took its course and the animals began having babies.
“We ended up with a lot of goats,” he joked.
“One day I realized we need to find something to do with the milk, so I said to myself, ‘I’m going to teach myself how to make cheese.’ And that is how simple it was.“