Did somebody say chocolate? Is it true that there’s an entire festival devoted to chocolate on Belize? Yes, the rumor is correct and if you are not beyond catching planes to indulge, book your passage now so you claim your share of the calories and the fun. No need to tell your dentist you’ll be attending this year’s Chocolate Festival. Just bring your toothbrush. He doesn’t need to know what you were doing between 22nd and 24th May 2015.
Which came first, the chocolate or the cacao plants? Every May, Belize celebrates a huge cash crop. The Toledo Cacao Fest was always scheduled for the third week of May to coordinate with Sovereign’s Day on or about 24 May. Political happenings notwithstanding, the celebration’s focus and name have been changed with some frequency over time, until the Belize Tourism Board and National Institute for Culture and History decided to halt the confusion. These days, it’s called the 7th Annual Chocolate Festival of Belize.
A little history: Once upon a time, the Toledo District was home to poverty-stricken people working a flagging crop, but a fortuitous confluence of conditions and imagination lead Belize leaders to evaluate the area’s soil and prioritize a crop that makes environmental sense—cacao beans. All of this came about in 1984 when the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA) was launched. Because the climate and soil in Toledo are idyllic, entrepreneurs set about planting cacao terroir, a unique bean capable of producing some of the most delicious chocolate food products on the planet.
Festival side shows: The Belize chocolate festival can turn into something of a free-for-all, where gambling, kids mechanical rides, exhibits and displays focus on indigenous Maya culture and the ubiquitous mega-chocolate party that dominates Punta Gorda Town. Expect to find street stalls selling everything from barbeque to crafts and drumming lessons. Toledo’s central plaza and outlying areas will be festooned with decorations. Merchants sell local beers and spirits from beneath tents and crowds are entertained by rap music-playing DJs. If you miss the festival’s wine and chocolate event at Garbutts Marine on Friday, 22nd May, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., you might have to live the remainder of your life with mega-regrets.
But where’s the chocolate? In a word, everywhere! Amble around the town central and peripheral festival areas and you will run into products, samples and even chocolate literature. Watch demonstrations on how cacao is processed and used in recipes and products that are putting Belize on the map. Snack on regular food—tamales and empanadas first so you don’t become delirious from the chocolate rush that could come from consuming too many chocolate-laced foods and drinks that include chocolate wines and stout.
Who should you blame? A select group of manufacturers are at the heart and soul of the Belize chocolate industry and the festival. Ix Cacao is a family business headquartered in San Felipe and known for intensely-flavored chocolates infused with all-spice, local vanilla, organic orange peel and baalam nut. Kakaw Chocolate, located on Ambergris Caye, not only produces chocolate products for resale but operates a yummy beach boutique. Goss Chocolates, founded when the first Cacao Fest was staged in 2007, is the company to turn to if European chocolates, delicate milk chocolates and specialty items like truffles are on your radar. Finally, Cotton Tree Chocolate makes little chocolate barrels filled with rum and they also sell cocoa bean jewelry!
Are you ready to spend three whole days in a haze of chocolate? Just nod “Yes” and then find out more about the 2015 festival here: http://chocolatefestivalofbelize.com/. Oh, and don’t worry about what to pack. Just grab anything with an elastic waistband.
Contact us today for more details on the Chocolate Festival of Belize.