The Toledo Cacao Festival was born in 2007 and has been celebrated each year on the same Commonwealth Day weekend towards the end of May. It attracts hundreds of visitors from around Belize as well as overseas. In 2013 the festival falls on the weekend of 24-26 May.
This lively festival has helped Toledo shed its worn out image as “the forgotten district” and establish it as one of Belize’s vibrant and growing tourism destinations. It also celebrates the tremendous contribution to development in the south made by the Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association (TCGA) and its hundreds of farmer members.
The Toledo Cacao Festival worked well as a name within Belize but many people do not understand the story that links cacao to cocoa and chocolate, which in the end is the real attraction. Likewise Toledo, Spain and Toledo, Ohio are better known internationally than Toledo, Belize. So this year the festival organizers are announcing their ambition to capture international attention by re-branding the event as the Chocolate Festival of Belize.
The festival has many devoted followers who return each year to sample the chocolate delights available and to find out what’s new in the world of chocolate making. The elegant wine and chocolate evening kicks off the weekend’s events as usual. This year it will be hosted by Belcampo Lodge and Farm. Formerly Machaca Hill Lodge, Belcampo describes itself as: “a 12-room hotel, a 3000-acre farm, planned Agritourism center, and a 15,000-acre rainforest preserve… proud to play a part in the conservation of the marine life of the Belizean reef through sustainable agricultural management and conservation of intact rainforest ecosystems.”
The wine and chocolate evening will take place in the plaza between their beautiful new Agritourism facilities with food provided from Belcampo’s own kitchen. Chocolate confections from all the Belizean boutique chocolate makers will also be on offer. These include Kakaw from San Pedro and Goss Chocolate from Placencia. Cotton Tree Chocolate and Ixcacao are local Toledo producers.
So now is the time to save the date and make your plans to come on down to Toledo for what promises to be a sweet weekend.
Belize describes itself as “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret!” With a population of just over 300,000 and around 40% of its land area under protected status, Belize is a hidden gem in Central America. Sparsely populated and ethnically diverse, the country is rich in natural wonders from the barrier reef and coastal cayes to the Maya Mountains and inland rainforest.
The southern district of Toledo is the Mayan heartland of Belize and the home of cacao (cocoa) from which chocolate is produced. This is the seventh year in which the people of Toledo and Belize join to celebrate the history and tradition of chocolate making and its contribution to the livelihoods of the Mayan farmers.
Thursday 23 May Arrival at Philip Goldson International (>BZE) airport in Belize City. Transfer to Tropic Air for the one hour flight from Belize City to the coastal fishing town of Punta Gorda, which is also the Toledo district capital. Here you will be met and transferred 20 miles to the Lodge. On arrival enjoy a welcome rum cocktail with truffles and settle into your cabana before dinner in our elegant restaurant.
Friday 24 May Begin the day with a visit to the Chiac’s home in Big Falls village where they make functional crafts that are bought by other villagers for their own use. These include hammocks, palm leaf fans, baskets and cuxtals. Visitors to the Chiac’s can all have a go at making these crafts under the tutelage of Juan, Hilaria and their daughter Marta. The time really flies by and guests leave with their face muscles aching from all the laughing they have done; mainly at themselves and their beginners’ efforts. What is most impressive is that to make the hammocks and bags Juan Chiac goes out into the forest to collect the leaves of the henequen plant from which he extracts the fibres that he then manually weaves into long soft thread. To make baskets he collects the tai tai vine from the forest which he strips and dries in preparation for its use.
The Wine and Chocolate event in the evening opens the three-day festival. This year it is being hosted by a lodge just outside town and will include local food using local recipes and several Belizean chocolatiers will be offering samples of their delicious product. The evening includes musical entertainment.
Saturday 25 May In the morning the festival moves to Front Street in Punta Gorda where the different ethnic groups in the district showcase their food, music and culture and, of course, there is more chocolate. There are two ethnic Mayan groups, the Kek’chi and Mopan Maya who form the vast majority of cocoa farmers in Toledo. Other groups represented include the mestizo of Spanish origin, Garifuna and Creole. Visitors can take all the time they want to explore the fair that extends two hundred yards along Front Street and taste the different food and drinks on offer. Afternoon free.
Sunday 25 May For the final day of the festival events shift inland to the Mayan archaeological site of Lubaantun where the crystal skull was discovered in 1924 by Anna Mitchell-Hedges who, as a teenager, was accompanying her father Frederick, an adventurer explorer. This magical site is beautifully preserved with a wonderful ambiance. There you will witness a day of culture and specific focus on the Maya. In the morning there will be food, arts and crafts exhibits, talks on aspects of Mayan history and tours around the archeological reserve. Later on there will be performances of traditional Mayan dances and other musical entertainment.
Monday 26 May Begin the day with a visit to Juan and Abelina Cho a local Mayan chocolatier who produce their own chocolate flavoured with ginger, coconut or chili. Guests will visit the Cal’s home in Big Falls village for lunch where Anita and Amina Cal will invite them to get involved in the preparation of a delicious vegetarian meal accompanied by a traditional drink made with cacao and corn. The afternoon is free but guests with a sense of adventure can go across the river from the Cal’s to Big Falls Extreme Adventures to ride on the zipline which carries people high over ground above the canopy and across the river. Back at the lodge they can tube on the river around the lodge or just relax in a hammock by the pool.
Tuesday 27 May Breakfast and departure. Guests will be transferred to Punta Gorda for their flight to Belize City to return home or onward to your next destination within Belize.
The Chocolate Festival of Belize is delighted to announce that tickets for the WINE, CHOCOLATE & BELIKIN opening event on Friday 24th May are now on sale.
The Festival’s signature evening offers visitors live music, fine food and wine, Belizean chocolate, and Belikin’s specially brewed Chocolate Stout. This year’s opening event will be held at Belcampo Lodge (just west of PG Town) in the plaza at their new purpose-built Agritourism facilities.
Belcampo has an enviable reputation not only for their accommodation and beautiful setting, but also for their farm-fresh Belizean food. Dishes will feature farm’s own pasture raised chicken, pork cooked outdoors over fire, and ingredients grown on their three-acre “edible landscape” organic farm. Belcampo pride themselves on their farm-to-fork concept, which revolves around wild local products as well as indigenous foodways and cooking techniques.
Belcampo’s General Manager, Mara Jernigan, says:
“At Belcampo, the entire staff is really excited about hosting the Wine, Chocolate & Belikin opening night. This will be the first major event to be held at our brand new Food and Farm Center and we can’t wait to show Belizeans and visitors a taste of Belcampo’s local hospitality and farm fresh food.”.
Belize’s boutique chocolatiers will be presenting their latest creations, providing an indulgent array of confections from Kakaw in San Pedro, Goss Chocolate from Seine Bight, and Toledo-based Cotton Tree Chocolate, and IxCacao.
As sponsors of the WINE, CHOCOLATE & BELIKIN night, Belikin will again be brewing their locally-inspired Chocolate Stout. This prized craft beer has a rich, creamy flavour with a satisfying flavour and aroma of chocolate, with just the right hints of vanilla and rum.
With musical performances from Blue Creek Marimba, and the Jazz Quartet, visitors can expect a luxury evening featuring Belizean chocolate and the rich flavours of the Toledo District.
Tickets are limited and sure to sell out, so avoid disappointment and get yours soon! Tickets cost BZ$50 in advance (BZ$60 at the door) and are available from:
Tourism Information Centre in PG,
BTIA National in Belize City and BTIA Placencia,
Goss Chocolate in Seine Bight, and
Kakaw’s Chocolate Boutique in San Pedro.
WINE, CHOCOLATE & BELIKIN is sponsored by Belikin Beer, and in partnership with Belcampo Lodge, Kakaw Belizean Chocolate, Goss Chocolate, Cotton Tree Chocolate, and IxCacao Maya Belizean Chocolate.
Chocolate lovers have an even sweeter excuse to discover Belize, as the annual “Chocolate Festival of Belize” provides 3-days of indulgence starting May 24 – 26, 2013! With rooted Maya history in cacao production, this anticipated event captures the traditional and modern chocolate making procedures, fun activities, chocolate inspired dishes and beverages, along with great cultural entertainment!
Toledo District, the chocolate mecca of Belize, offers a wealth of adventures year-round and great deals (particularly) during this 3-day event.
Family and friends, this is your opportunity to engage the cacao farmers and chocolatiers on the production process, as well as the touring of cacao farms and chocolate factories. The weekend starts with a, ticket only, “Wine, Chocolate and Belikin Night”, held at the (nature-inspired) Belcampo Lodge, west of Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District.
Friday, May 24, 2013: “Wine, Chocolate and Belikin Night”. Enjoy a full night of chocolate decadence with an array of delectable creations and the anticipated unveiling of the Belikin Chocolate Stout. Relish in the festivities, as live musicalentertainment by the Blue Crreek Marimba and the Jazz Quartet that will create the perfect ambiance.
Saturday, May 25, 2013: “Street Fair”. This event will be held (from 10:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.) in Punta Gorda Town on Front Street, and is an open event providing a wealth of chocolate-based food and beverages. With the enchantment of cultural(Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo, Creole and East Indian) music and dance performances, cacao, chocolate and art booths, along with fun children games and great tour specials available, this is a festive day for the entire family!
Sunday, May 26, 2013: The “Lubaantun Finale”, is a grand event held at the beautiful ancient Maya temple of Lubaantun, northwest of Punta Gorda Town (entrance fee Adults $10 High Schools $5 and Primary Schools $2). Expect a fun-filled day of: cacao husking, cacao grinding and cacao drinking competitions, food, cacao, and art booths on display. Witness the four stages of cacao production, as well as live entertainment by the Blue Creek Marimba, Ernestine Carballo and Grupo Indigeno Maya. This festive day will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
There’s no better time to become familiar with Belize, start planning for the ultimate vacation experience!
The Chocolate Festival of Belize is fast approaching! The festival kicks off with the hugely popular Wine & Chocolate evening on Friday the 24th of May, held this year at Belcampo Lodge just outside Punta Gorda. This is followed on Saturday by the Taste of Toledo street fair in PG, a celebration of local cultures, foods and of course chocolate. There will be competitions & games too so bring the whole family. On Sunday events shift to Lubaantun Mayan site, 15 minutes from The Lodge at Big Falls, which will showcase traditional music and dance in the magical setting of an ancient Mayan plaza.
Chocoholics rejoice: Belize to hold Chocolate Festival
Chocolate lovers should head to Belize this month, where the country will be indulging in this sweet treat at the annual Chocolate Festival of Belize.
The festival will take place from May 24 to 26 in the Toledo district of the country, which is known as the chocolate Mecca of the country, and will celebrate Belize’s history in the production of cacao, dating back to the times of the Maya.
The three day event includes a full programme of fun chocolate-inspired activities for visitors, including meeting cacao farmers, touring cacao farms and chocolate factories, and witnessing chocolatiers at work. There will of course be plenty of tasting sessions and cultural entertainment too.
The weekend will begin with a ‘Wine, Chocolate and Belikin Night’, held within the 15,000-acre rainforest reserve at Belcampo Lodge, which will feature live music and the unveiling of the new Belikin Chocolate Stout by the Belize Brewing Company.
One of the highlights of the festival will be a street party in Punta Gorda Town on Saturday May 25, with music and dance performances from Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo, Creole and East Indian performers. There will also be the opportunity to try different chocolate-based dishes and drinks.
The festival’s grand finale on Sunday May 26, will be held at the Maya temple of Lubaantun, with cocoa grinding and cocoa drinking competitions, art displays, a presentation of the four stages of cocoa production and live entertainment by a Maya indigenous group.
Besides being known for its chocolate, Belize is also one of the best diving locations in the world and also provides plenty of opportunities for relaxing on the beach, exploring jungles and visiting ancient Maya temples.
The 2013 Chocolate Festival is scheduled for May 24 -26, and the Festival’s committee is finishing up preparations, for the event. It is one of the biggest events on the calendar which is focused primarily in Southern Belize.
It will be filled with activities, but the centerpiece is those organically grown cacao beans from the south and the many delicious treats they can make. Today, the Vice Chair of the Committee told us why you should go.
Armando Chocho - Vice Chairman "One of the objectives of the chocolate festival is to raise awareness for Toledo district as a responsible tourism destination. We do that by true the Cacao Chocolate Festival, by promoting the Toledo's rich culture, the food that we have to offer and of course the natural resources - the waterfall, the Archaeological site, the snorkeling and the barrier reef, all of this in the Toledo district. That is one of the reasons but also to celebrate Cacao and chocolate, a lot of Belizeans love chocolate and who else wouldn't love chocolate and so the chocolate festival weekend was designed about all things chocolate and cacao. People can come down to the Toledo district and learn more about how chocolate is made and learn more about the Mayan farmer and how they cultivate their cacao and of course their living. There will be a chocolate demonstration making process; we'll also have Cacao trail tours - going into the communities for people to have an opportunity to learn where cacao comes from and how chocolate is made."
For more information on the Festival, you can visit the Facebook page for “Chocolate Festival of Belize.”
Cotton Tree Lodge & Taza Chocolate are proud to present Chocolate Week! This March, we invite you to join Taza cofounder Alex Whitmore for a full week in beautiful Belize, exploring the Mayan origins of chocolate and relaxing in the thatched-roof cabanas of Cotton Tree Lodge. Alex has spent the last several years travelling extensively through Latin America and the Caribbean, sourcing the highest quality organic cacao for Taza Chocolate. These efforts have recently led us to Belize where, in partnership with Cotton Tree Lodge and Maya Mountain Cacao, we're laying the groundwork for our next single origin chocolate bar. For enthusiasts seeking to better understand the chocolate-making process from bean to bar, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Activities and highlights: Chocolate, from Tree to Taste
The week's activities, led by Alex, will focus on the cultivation, preparation, and history of cacao, and how we transform it into craft chocolate.
Highlights of the week include:
- Hike through a working cacao farm & taste cacao fresh from the tree!
- Sip a traditional cacao drink (made by mano y metate) with a Mayan family at their farmhouse.
- Get an in-depth look at the cacao fermentation and drying process at Maya Mountain Cacao, just steps from your cabana!
- Visit a chocolate "factory" in the village of Punta Gorda, and try your hand at roasting, winnowing, conching, tempering and molding. Bring finished chocolate bars home!
- Meet the leaders of the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA), and learn about the economy of chocolate and the challenges growers face.
- Back at the lodge, soak up more chocolate knowledge at casual evening lectures and discussions, as Alex delves into the topics like Direct Trade sourcing, large scale chocolate manufacturing, and the Mesoamerican history of chocolate.
Your week will begin with a visit to a local cacao farm, where farmers will show you how to identify healthy, ripe cacao pods and how to properly harvest the flesh and seeds inside. Later in the week, back at Cotton Tree and Maya Mountain Cacao, Alex will guide you through the fermentation process – the most significant factor in flavor development on the farm – using the beans you collected.
Also during your stay, Mayan families and local chocolate artisans will demonstrate the various ways cacao is transformed after harvest. During a visit to Eladio Pop’s farmhouse, you’ll watch and assist as a traditional Mayan cacao drink is made by mano y metate – that is, by hand with traditional stone tools. You’ll make an excursion to a chocolate “factory” in the village of Punta Gorda, where local artisanal chocolate maker Julie Puryear will demonstrate the roasting and winnowing steps, in which the beans are heated to impart flavor and eliminate moisture, and the shells are removed. With the freshly winnowed cacao, you’ll make your own high-quality chocolate bars, seeing the process through the final steps of conching, tempering and molding. You’ll have finished chocolate bars to bring home with you!
Another highlight of the program is the Lodge's proximity to Maya Mountain Cacao, a socially-responsible cocoa bean export business that Alex co-founded. During the week, you’ll gain fascinating insight into the economy of chocolate and how Maya Mountain Cacao aims to foster a sustainable, fair business model and higher standards of living for local growers. Learn even more at mayamountaincacao.tumblr.com. Also, in the comfortable Cotton Tree Lodge gathering space, Alex will lead informal evening lectures/discussions, diving into topics like Direct Trade sourcing, large scale chocolate manufacturing, and the Meso-American history of chocolate. By the time you depart Belize, you may rightly call yourself a chocolate expert.
Rustic Setting, comfortable Accommodations:
Nestled amidst dense rainforest on the banks of the Moho River, Cotton Tree Lodge sits placidly on a 100-acre plot in the Toledo district of Belize. The region is rich with Mayan history – stone ruins and ancient pottery shards persist amid villages where the descendants of these ancient civilizations live today. Cacao has been cultivated here for millennia, at one time for use in ritual beverages, now made into small batch chocolate bars. When not immersed in the cacao-centric activities of Chocolate Week, you’re encouraged to kick back and relax in the lodge, or head out with a Cotton Tree guide on a one-of-a-kind adventure. Horseback riding, bird watching hikes, and darkened swims in Blue Creek Cave are just some of the excursions available at this jungle oasis. Visitors can choose from a range of fully screened, thatch-roofed lodging options, from shared dorms to deluxe cabanas featuring private bathrooms, ceiling fans, balconies, and hammocks.
While providing guests with comfortable accommodations and modern amenities, Cotton Tree Lodge is nevertheless committed to minimizing its impact on the unspoiled Belizean rainforest. Energy for the lodge is generated primarily via inconspicuous solar panels. Much of the food served is grown in Cotton Tree’s own organic garden, tended by extensionists of the non-profit Sustainable Harvest International.
Chocolate Festival of Belize Heads Into Its Seventh Year
At the end of the month all road will be leading down south for the 7th annual Chocolate Festival of Belize. The festival will span from the 24th, to the 26th of May and Chairman of the Chocolate Festival of Belize, Dennis Garbutt spoke to Love News about what you can expect at this year’s festival.
"So we have three different events going on; the first will be the ‘Wine and Chocolate Evening’, that's over at Bel Campo Lodge which is just a quick stone’s throw away from Punta Gorda Town. At Bel Campo, we will be having nice music, we will having a jazz quartet and also the Blue Creek Marimba. At Bel Campo area you will be able to enjoy the food; it’s all organically grown, finger foods, there will be chocolate based stuff. There is going to be the 4 chocolatiers out there doing their thing and they will be having samples and things like that, so people will be able to enjoy going to the festival and interact with the different chocolatiers. That will be a fantastic time on Friday but we also have Saturday. Saturday is The Taste of Toledo, that is when we are going to have the different cultural groups coming out and Saturday is sponsored by BTL and Digicell. At Saturday's event you could expect the diverse culture, the food, music, the craft; people will be out there selling or making stuff so that people could enjoy and at the same time we’re going to have different games going on like volleyball competition, bicycle race for the kids and there is a lot of different things, a lot that Toledo has to offer as it relates to inland tours; you will be able to visit the cacao farms and see how the people grow their cacao and things like that. On Sunday there is going to be a lot of surprises; you're going to be taken back to the Mayan days, for example, your money will be no good at Sunday’s event. In essence, if you’re trying to spend, you will have to go to the local bank they will provide there at Lubaantun for you to be able to purchase food and enjoy. So, in other words you will be taken back to the Maya world. It’s going to be fun; there will be surprise, there is a lot of different things I don't want to give them all out, I want people to come and experience it themselves."
Tickets for the wine and chocolate evening is fifty dollars each.