In the history of Belize, chocolate has been at the center of agriculture, trade, and love for centuries. The best quality organic chocolate (cacao) beans have been shade grown in the rainforests of Belize for generations. In ancient times, cacao beans were used as currency. Potent chocolate liquors and drinks made of roasted beans have been the beverages of choice of the elite aristocracy. Now in modern days, the Maya people of Belize are hearkening back to their roots by offering some of the finest handcrafted organic chocolates for the commercial market and invite visitors to witness and partake in chocolate making as it has been produced for centuries. Cacao beans are naturally high in antioxidants and minerals, attributing to their health qualities as well as reputation as a stimulant and an aphrodisiac.
Cacao pods on the tree
Grinding cocoa beans (Photo from: Belize.com)
Cacao farms in the Cayo district are producing amazing quality chocolate beans that are being used locally to produce small scale artisanal chocolate. The cacao Tree's botanical name is Theobroma Cacao, which means "food of the gods" in Greek. The cacao tree grows to be about 30 feet tall bearing white flowers and colorful fruit. It takes a cacao tree about five years to produce its first fruit, otherwise known as a cacao pod. The cacao pod has a hard shell, is shaped like a bloated cucumber, and is usually red, yellow, or orange. It takes about 5 years for the tree to bear fruit, has a peak growing period of 10 years, but can extend for decades. Cacao pods take 4-5 months to grow, several weeks to ripen, and are cut from the tree with a sharp blades Cacao beans take about 5 days to ferment in specialized boxes, and 1-2 weeks to sun dry on large trays. Each cacao pod holds roughly 40 to 50 cacao beans.
Come join us discover the mysteries and the deliciousness of the Maya cacao on our Chocolate Making and Cacao Farm Tour!
Cocoa beans and powder
Roasting cocoa beans