What’s in a Year?

Last year on this date, I began my Monday morning as no other.  Until that time, I’d been dividing myself and my time between writing legal briefs and crafting chocolate truffles.  Then, I left the practice of law to devote myself to cacao and chocolate, and Mondays (as with all other days) from that point on would be filled with chocolate.  At that moment, I could have only imagined what would transpire over the coming twelve months. 

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Grinding cacao in Belize

Over the last year:

  • we’ve been welcomed into the community. We’ve been honored to provide our artisanal chocolates for local charity events, such as Luke’s Wings Hero Gala and Junior League of Washington’s Kitchen Tour, and for other notable events, such as the First Annual Silver Spring, Maryland, Easter Egg Hunt.

  • with your help, we traveled to the jungles of southern Belize on an educational journey to experience firsthand how cacao is grown, how cacao is transformed into chocolate, and how cacao was—and still is—significant to Mayan culture; and

  • our handcrafted confections, including our Fall Collection with our much-loved Pumpkin Spice truffle, Easter peanut butter bunnies, and Dark Chocolate Fleur de Sel Caramels, have been warmly received by you.

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Pumpkin Spice

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My Journey Through Southern Belize: The Less-Explored Toledo District (Part 3)

My earlier posts (Part 1 & Part 2) about Belize have been about cacao, but I want to share the stunning landscape and culture of southern Belize that I experienced.

I stayed in the southernmost district, which is also the least visited, in Belize—the Toledo District—for a week where a majority of the population is Mayan.  Toledo is apparently the least developed district in Belize, and perhaps as a result, still has many breathtaking natural sights.

Once I flew into Belize City’s international airport, I boarded a puddle jumper to fly two hundred miles south to Punta Gorda, the capital of the Toledo District, or “P.G.” as it’s known to locals.

Belize City is at the top of the map (arrow at top) and Punta Gorda is in the south (arrow at bottom of map)

Belize City is at the top of the map (arrow at top) and Punta Gorda is in the south (arrow at bottom of map).  Click on the map for a larger version.

 

After arriving in P.G., I was driven fifteen miles to the lodge where I’d be staying.  This short trip took about forty-five minutes because some of that drive is on a paved road but some of it isn’t.

On the way to the lodge

On the way to the lodge

 

The further you get from P.G. and head west, the less developed the district is and the more natural beauty you see, including green rain forests in the distance.  There are also Mayan villages scattered along the way to the lodge.

I stayed at Cotton Tree Lodge, an eco-lodge, which sits on the Moho River and in the jungle.  I fell asleep each night to the sound of crickets; occasionally was awakened in the middle of the night by troops of competing howler monkeys, which emit sounds you’d expect from a T-Rex; and awoke each morning to chirping birds and the sun rays slowly flooding my room.  I highly recommend staying at Cotton Tree.

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My Journey Through Southern Belize: Preparing Cacao for Chocolate-Making (Part 2)

In my last post, you saw how cacao is grown and harvested, particularly on a small scale.  In this post, I’ll share an overview of how I observed the cacao pulp and beans taken from their raw state through fermenting, roasting, and drying, resulting in cacao beans that can be used to make chocolate.

The first step is fermentation, which is largely when the flavor of the cacao bean is developed.  Once the pulp and beans are removed from the cacao pods, they are taken through the fermentation process.  The facility I visited in Belize takes the cacao beans through fermentation in wooden bins—that are outdoors—in three stages over a span of five to seven days (see picture).

During this period, the beans in the wooden bins are covered with banana leaves or sacks.  The cacao beans are transferred from one row of bins to another, for the sake of rotating the beans, controlling the temperature that the beans emit during fermentation, and allowing for consistent fermentation.  During the fermentation process, the cacao beans turn from whitish purple to a reddish brown color.

Cacao beans in the initial stages of fermentation

Cacao beans in the initial stages of fermentation

 

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