Eladio Pop was born into a family of fifteen children in San Pedro Columbia Village in the Toledo District. His father was a farmer and his mother was a housewife who also helped with the farming. At the age of seventeen he met and fell in love with his wife, Virginia, a resident of San Pedro Columbia. Not long after they had their first child, Adalia. Eladio continues to farm and has a great love for planting and embracing the natural riches of the earth. He is an organic farmer who does not use any machinery or pesticides to farm and reap his products. His machete is his best friend.

Eight years ago, after growing and reaping cacao, Eladio decided he would bring back the value of cacao from his ancestors, not only in his home but for the public as well. Slowly but surely, lots of people started hearing about and visiting the cacao farm, the roasting of cacao beans, grinding it and making it into a paste to drink as hot chocolate. It is prepared in the same way the Mayans, many years ago, use to do it. He is proud of his accomplishment in introducing and sharing this wonderful part of his heritage with his family and the world.

Eladio became well known and his chocolate farm and demonstration blossomed three years ago when director Rohan Fernando, an award-winning director and cinematographer, a Sri Lankan native and Canadian immigrant, was introduced to Eladio Pop’s cacao farming through the National Film Board of Canada. Rohan produced a documentary called “The Chocolate Farmer”. It illustrates the life of Eladio and his family, his farm and chocolate demonstration, his values, what he believes in and how he has seen the world take you on a short Mayan Village tour before arriving at the house.

You are then greeted by the family and get a very small introduction before heading out to the farm. Eladio will walk and talk about his farm and you will feel the love flowing from his words and the passion that he has for what he does. You will then get to see the cacao pods, break them open and have a taste of that sweet creamy coated bean. Trust me; once you have tried it you will get hooked.

You are then escorted back to the house where his wife and daughter will show you how they first dry and then roast the bean and tell you how to determine the right time for the roasting to be complete. You will get to try the roasted bean in tiny pieces, which are called nibs after which you will be shown the process of grinding it on the change in many different ways.

Eladio said, “I love Belize and I believe it is a blessed country. I want tourists to not only come to my place and do the tour I offer; I want them to come to the country and see the country as well. I want my community to be a part of the cacao planting too. I want to share my heart with the world.”

Visiting Agouti cacao Farm is by far one the most exciting experiences you can have while visiting Toledo. If you are staying in Punta Gorda Town, you could hop on Cal’s Village bus that goes to Silver Creek via San Pedro Columbia at 11:00. This bus is always parked on Jose Maria Street in Punta Gorda Town. The trip involves a forty five minute ride from the town to San Pedro Columbia Village.

It is always best to contact them before going, so as to have someone waiting at the bus stop in the village for you. Feliciano Pop, also a tour guide with the Toledo Tour Guide Association, works directly with his father. He generally would be the one you would meet at the bus stop and would take you on a short Mayan Village tour before arriving at the house.

You are then greeted by the family and get a very small introduction before heading out to the farm. Eladio will walk and talk about his farm and you will feel the love flowing from his words and the passion that he has for what he does. You will then get to see the cacao pods, break them open and have a taste of that sweet creamy coated bean. Trust me; once you have tried it you will get hooked.

You are then escorted back to the house where his wife and daughter will show you how they first dry and then roast the bean and tell you how to determine the right time for the roasting to be complete. You will get to try the roasted bean in tiny pieces, which are called nibs after which you will be shown the process of grinding it on the traditional Mayan volcanic rock called a “metate”. Of course, you will get to dip your hand in and do your part in grinding that paste. After the paste is made you get to mix it in hot water and drink it with or without sugar. This is your hot chocolate!

Leaving the farm, house and the family is sad. You want to stay and hear more and see more. But there is a serenity you encounter on this tour that stays with you, wherever you go. It gives you that warmth and comfort that chocolate gives. Indeed, this chocolate farm and demonstration is a must see when visiting Toledo!

The Toledo Howler