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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

Chocolate for Halloween – Maybe it comes from Belize??


Posted: October 31, 2010
by: Mark Stine

On this Halloween weekend, where many people will be handing out chocolate to trick- or- treaters or indulging at Halloween parties with Chocolate martinis, it is fun to reflect back on the my recent trip to Belize and the opportunity to see  chocolate being made first hand.

In a prior blog on the Mayan home-stay near Punta Gorda, Belize, I was fortunate enough to see the original way the local Mayans harvested, roasted and made the cacao paste from which they made their chocolate drink.

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A colorful mural greets you at Cotton Tree Chocolate          

Another option, using more automated techniques was observed at the Cotton Tree Chocolate company in Punta Gorda. Located at # 2  Front St, right along the bay. We stopped in one afternoon and met with the Manager, Juli Puryear, who took us through each step of the chocolate making process.

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Manager Juli Puryear – what a great job!!

Cotton Tree Chocolate “ proudly provides free daily tours of the factory where you get to view chocolate and cocoa butter being made with lots of tasting included!” and that was true...after the tour Juli was very generous with chocolate sampling….including the ones filled with rum.

Juli took us through the process of roasting, which is used with modern electric toasting ovens as well as the grinding and separation process. This was fun as she actually used a hair dryer to blow off the lighter weight roasted shells, leaving behind the cacao.

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The electric grinders rapidly produced a nice thick paste and then we were shown the tempering room, where the “chocolate takes a vacation” so to speak.

They produce a variety of chocolate styles and use very colorful packaging. Another exciting thing about the production at Cotton Tree Chocolate is that they are a true product of Belize.

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Juli works with local farmers and produces small batches of chocolate from each local grower.

“We work with local farmers towards environmental, economic, and social sustainability. We exclusively use cocoa beans grown by our neighbors from the Mayan villages surrounding our Moho River location at Cotton Tree Lodge in the Toledo District of Belize,” noted Juli

For eco-tourists I think this is noteworthy. It takes an indigenous product, a company that works with local growers and produces a noteworthy product that is enjoyed by many. And that enjoyment is doubled knowing there is a natural process to it all.

Take a look at the Cotton Tree Chocolate web site…Juli and her team work hard to make people happy and you would make her happy by learning more about them and how they do it.

http://www.cottontreechocolate.com/index.htm

For local tour information you can reach them at 621-8778 (Belize- Punta Gorda)

For additional excitement  check out Cotton Tree Lodge which offers a unique eco experience with a boat ride to the lodge from the Punta Gorda landing strip, riverfront cabanas on  the Moho river and an array of adventure activities.

http://www.cottontreelodge.com

To make the cacao growing process even more productive, the Toledo Cacao Growers Association was created in 1984 to help local growers in a number of ways. We met with Armando Choco, General Manager of the Association who gave us more background on its inception. “ The aim of the organization is to improve the quality and socio-economic living standards of the membership. It provides a method of solidarity and communication on competitive and diversified methods of growing and production. As an added benefit, it is done in ways that are sustainable and work with the local environment.”

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 Armando Choco, General Manager of the Toledo Cacao Growers Association

 

We learned there are more than 1100 subsistence farmers in the Toledo and adjacent regions working in cacao production and over 47 tons of cacao are produced locally and annually, bringing true organization to the local growers and their pursuit of economic and environmental sustainability.  In today’s multi-national corporate world of global reach, it is comforting to know that locals can benefit in producing a product the entire world enjoys.

I am not sure how they celebrate Halloween in Belize…that will require another trip back …but I do know if they do… the local trick or treaters are in for some great Belizean chocolate!


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Your Comments

What a great post! Thanks for sharing! I know Juli would be thrilled to see this and I'll forward it to her. If any of your readers would like to go very in-depth with the chocolate experience, please consider joining Cotton Tree Lodge for one of our "Chocolate Weeks". We'll be running 2 this year-- one led by Alex Whitmore from Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts, March 19 - 26. And a second one run by the Cotton Tree Lodge staff, May 15 - 22. This one will overlap with the Toledo Cacao Festival-- a community celebration of southern Belize culture and chocolate.

Posted by: Holly Masek at Nov 1, 2010 12:52:08 PM

This is Juli from Cotton Tree Chocolate, and I enjoyed the post. Thanks Mark!
Just wanted to correct our Belize phone number, which is
621-8776.
I invite all chocolate lovers to come and visit us when traveling to Belize. Yes I do have a great job, and love sharing the chocolate making process with our guests!
Juli Puryear

Posted by: juli puryear at Nov 2, 2010 12:13:26 PM

My mom used to make it for me on Halloween ..but miss my family, working far away from them..anyways thanks for bring back my memories..

Posted by: Undergraduate Student CV at Nov 4, 2010 6:36:09 AM