Cacao Fest Comes Around Again
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.”
Chocolate Week in Belize
March 16th – 23rd, 2013
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.
For detailed rate information or to book your trip today, send an email to: [email protected].
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.