There are many great reasons to visit Belize right now: pristine coral reef, fabulous beaches, amazing diving, a lush rainforest, and incredible wildlife. Oh yes and organic chocolate! Delicious, decadent chocolate- Belize has a long tradition of authentic chocolate production. The cacao plants are indigenous to Belize and the Mayans knew more than a thing or two about growing the very best there is.
Naturally, great chocolate begins with great cocoa. Whether it’s the intense fruitiness of Organic cocoa or the smooth character of Heirloom cacao, you find it all – along with warm sunshine and turquoise water, here in Belize.
As this crop is primarily grown in the shade, cacao provides habitats for numerous species including birds and other fruit bearing trees. By doing so, it protects an areas’ unique biodiversity. Heirloom and hybrid cacao varietals like those found in Belize most often grow harmoniously with other fruit trees, such as bananas or papayas.
Farmers inspect the cacao trees by hand and they only harvest the oblong pods when they are fully ripe. The pods are then cut open to access the juicy cocoa beans which are covered in a thick, white cacao fruit. This is removed from the pod and covered with banana leaves. As the fruit breaks down the cocoa begins to ferment, which forms the first precursors of chocolate flavour. Then, from inside the paper-thin shell of cocoa beans are the cocoa nibs which are roasted to bring out the chocolate aroma.
Then sugar is added, along with milk if you are making milk chocolate. Cocoa butter is the natural oil found inside cocoa nibs and is added to give the chocolate its smooth luxurious texture. Freshly made chocolate is stirred for several hours until smooth, thick and shiny. Then it is ‘tempered’ by a series of controlled temperature changes to ensure that the final chocolate will set with a shine and ‘snap’. Then the chocolate is carefully poured into moulds and once cool, ready for all to enjoy. It’s no wonder chocolate is a sacred, medicinal, psychoactive plant and cacao actually means in translation “Food of the Gods”. The Spirit of Cacao was one of the most revered of the ancient Mayan Deities. Cacao: ‘The water that runs through the heart’.