Belize: Chasing the chocolate source


During our hour-long journey to southern Belize, the aircraft acts more like a bus when we stop en route, dropping off passengers, mail and bank deposits to villages about the Caribbean coast.

Despite a bird’s-eye check out the sparkling sea and coral reefs that the majority individuals to Belize come for, my gaze is attracted to the land. Our low altitude affords an unparalleled view of this particular region, a thick, tropical jungle, discover myriad small farmers growing a lot of the world’s finest cocoa.

Although Punta Gorda seems truth be told sleepy versus the small towns my plane diverted to, it is the capital of Belize’s Toledo District.

But inside mind of countless visitors, this is the capital of chocolate, well , its key ingredient, cocoa.

The community of Punta Gorda is realising visitors want a taste of something more than coastal life; they want to trace chocolate for your roots and thru the making process.

For example, some fans on the premium organic chocolate Green & Black’s – a distinct segment brand around australia but family members name in great britan – tracked the fair-trade product towards the 900 perhaps farms around Punta Gorda within their travels.

The Toledo Cocoa Growers Association (TCGA) has spent days gone by 16 years quietly constructing a successful partnership with Green & Black’s; as a result, the organic cocoa beans from your small-scale, co-operative farms finish up on our shelves inside the fair-trade chocolate, Maya Gold.

While chocolate tourism could possibly be new, the local connection with cocoa is age-old. Mayans valued the cocoa bean (known as cacao) to its supposed links to fertility; chocolate drinks, called kukuh, have already been utilized on ceremonial occasions in this particular country not less than 1500 years.

Chocolate begins its lifecycle in the heart of the cocoa pod. Sprouting from attractive, shady trees, the massive, oval-shaped cocoa pods are harvested at peak ripeness. Farmers seek out some dozen or so beans lying under the sweet, pulpy flesh inside the pod you need to the drying and fermenting process. After up to week lying in the sunshine, the beans turn from purple to just about brown.

When local tourism operators realised the depth of visitors’ involvement in their farmers’ crops, a tiny side industry in tours began. Year-round, individuals to Punta Gorda can step out to the cocoa trail for a three-hour tour including visits to organic farms and lunch within the farmer’s simple homes. If you are patient enough to wait until the Punta Gorda tourist office is open (it usually is like guesswork), it’s also possible to be ready to arrange for a homestay at a remote farm (highly recommended).

The formal tour operators are nowhere coming soon but I’m sufficiently fortunate to be in both your hands of local TCGA manager, Armando Choco. We leave Punta Gorda early to head with the hills when the heart of cocoa country lies. Farms are incredibly disguised one of many lush green jungle and since we trek our in place and down an approximate trail, Choco shares his understanding concerning the difficulties farmers face: “My grandparents farmed and so i saw their struggle,” he states.

“My father fell ill while i was young, so he couldn’t teach me what he knew having said that i knew what we had and just what the rewards were as soon as they sold their product.”

I puff my way along under 100-year-old cocoa trees towards Luciano Sho’s farm, arriving hot and satisfyingly dirty. It’s really worth the hike to know Sho explain that his fair-trade pay packet makes a proper difference for his children’s education.

“I wanted to be certain my kids had not been as foolish as me,” according to of his education. “I have 13 children; one is a lecturer, the first is rising force and the other is in technical college.”

While heading out towards the farms is rewarding, there’s an less difficult technique to absorb the district’s link to chocolate. Each May, Punta Gorda hosts the colourful Toledo Cacao Festival, a three-day celebration of cocoa, chocolate and Mayan culture.

Locals also produce their unique in addition to expect the neighborhood bars to taste like what you may find on Western supermarket shelves: the sweet magic of your good treat we all know referring later within the production process. Instead, I get by together with the kukuh drink, a sweetened, earthy concoction that farmers cook up for visitors.

Sipping the regular drink, deep involved with the jungle, is very satisfying which could stay indefinitely, specially if it meant escaping the nerve-racking flight beyond here.

The writer travelled for Green & Black’s.


Getting there

Fares from Sydney to Miami via Chicago and Denver start at $1600 plus taxes, according to the airline. Phone 1300 767 757, see

Flights from Miami to Belize City start at $US800 ($1245) return on American Airlines. Tropic Air’s flight from Belize City to Punta Gorda starts from $US102 one of the ways.

Staying there

Hickatee Cottages has Caribbean-style cabins in a jungle setting from $US75 a double. See Beya Suites is due to walking distance with the town centre, from $US60 a double. See

Touring there

Cocoa farm tours is usually organised directly using the Toledo Travel Centre in Punta Gorda town or through IBTM Tours (email: [email protected]). Costs originate from $US51 for your three-hour farm tour.

More information

The Toledo Cacao Festival is held on May 22-24 and may feature cooking demonstrations of kukuh, music, dance and tours. See

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