Even though the ancient Maya were making use of cacao beans thousands of years ago as currency and to make a special beverage, cacao has only recently become a familiar word in Belize. Most people in the former British colony grew up consuming imported cocoa and chocolate without any knowledge that their country was capable of making its own or that some of the same foreign chocolate they were purchasing were made with cacao grown by Maya farmers in the rural communities of southern Belize.
Today, the cacao trees that are grown sustainably in the green jungles of the Toledo district are used to produce some of the most high quality chocolate in the world, and everyone knows! As opposed to times past when all the beans were prepared for export to one international chocolate conglomerate, chocolatiers are popping up around the country, and several independent international companies continually seek Belize’s prized cacao at fair-trade prices to create their specialty confections. Luckily for visitors, premium locally-made organic chocolate is now sold in stores, and you can even make your own from bean to bar!
Learn how to make cocoa in traditional Maya style:
Taking a chocolate tour is a sure way for you to earn a full appreciation for Belizean chocolate. Consider visiting San Felipe Village in the Toledo district where the Cho family has built a successful chocolate brand called, Ixcacao. Here you will learn of the cacao varieties grown in Belize and witness the entire process from fruit to bean to bar. You’ll even use the ancient Maya tools to grind roasted cacao beans to make the chocolate paste that the Maya elite used for a ceremonial drink. While the Cho family will have you try this beverage of the ancients, they will also demonstrate how they use this paste to make the sweetened chocolate bars first created by the Europeans who thought adding sugar to the paste would be a pretty good idea. The Cho family has perfected their chocolate bar creations, both dark and milk, and will let you try a variety of flavors using locally sourced ingredients ranging from ginger to coconut to cardamom.
Visit the annual Belize Chocolate Festival in May:
Honoring the cacao heritage and traditions of southern Belize, is the Belize Chocolate Festival held every year in May by the Toledo Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association. Join the 13th celebration this year from May 24 to May 26. Visitors will be able to try chocolates and other cacao products produced from different companies in Belize and also immerse themselves in the local culture of Toledo through music, dance, educational presentations and various ethnic foods. You’ll also want to get your hands on the popular seasonal chocolate stout brewed each year at this time by the Belikin Beer company. Expect an evening soiree of wine and chocolate, a daytime street fair at this festival and special Maya cultural performances.
Buy chocolate for your friends and family:
Know a chocolate lover at home? Let them know what authentic chocolate is supposed to taste like! Prepared with pure cocoa butter and no additives, and
available from very dark to milk, as well as incorporating high quality locally produced ingredients, such as organic black pepper, ginger and cacao nibs among others, Belize truly has the best to offer.
Insider’s Tip: Worried about your chocolate melting? Try freezing the night before in a ziplock bag before your travels.
Look out for the following brands of chocolate: Goss Chocolate, Ixcacao Chocolate, Cotton Tree Chocolate, Belize Chocolate Company, Kakaw Chocolate, Mahogany Chocolate and Lamanai Chocolate.
Would you like to take a chocolate tour during your visit or book your stay to attend the Belize Chocolate Festival? Our team at Sirenian Bay will be happy to assist! Contact us or check your dates to book online!