Belize Cacao is distinctive. From its origins with the Maya over 2000 years ago to the introduction of newer varieties in recent years, all have led to an amazingly unique product. It is this heritage of the beans that enables us to make fine chocolate that doesn’t necessarily taste the same every time. Each time we open a sack whilst picking beans to buy, it is exciting to taste what flavors we discover through taste and smell – a lot like trying a new wine.
We now buy most of our beans from Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) the co-operative that buys beans from local family farms. The beans are certified organic and direct trade. Most farmers only have a few trees, so it makes sense for them to sell to a co-operative. When the pods are ready which can be anytime from November to May the farmer cuts the pod carefully from the tree with a machete. They know the pod is ripe by scraping the skin.
The pod is broken in half and the beans are scooped out into sacks. The beans are covered in a sweet white pulp and are delicious to suck on, but taste NOTHING like chocolate. The empty pods are left on the ground to decay and rot and provide organic fertilizer for the trees. The wet beans are taken in sacks to the drying stations and at this stage they are put into wooden fermenting boxes and covered with banana leaves. This process takes approximately 7 days. Once fermented, the beans are dried under a covered and protected area in the sun.
Once dried, this is where we come in and Chris regularly visits Toledo and the farmers during this time. Sacks of beans are then transported by land/air and sea and finally by golf cart to our factory on Ambergris Caye, where we make our chocolate.