BELIZE: FROM MAYANS TO MODERN ERA
Some believe that the ancient Maya invented chocolate during their reign over Mesoamerica; Belize fondly known to some as the “Cradle of Chocolate”. From peasants to kings, chocolate was consumed by the masses. Evidence suggests that Mayans had chocolate at every meal, along with foods such as ground corn, honey, and hot chili. With its natural antioxidants and iron minerals, drinking chocolate can even be a healthier alternative to tea or coffee (read that again!), and many Mayan farmers still incorporate it into their diet regularly.
For many years, Belizean farmers sold to Hershey, whose main cacao farm was stationed here. When it became cheaper for the corporation to buy elsewhere, farmers who had invested in cacao trees were left suffering financial losses, to the point where the nation exported no chocolate until the 1990s. Toledo Cacao Growers Association, an NGO aimed at helping cocoa producers get their product into local and international markets, teamed up with Cadbury to harvest organic cacao for European companies.
The quality of cocoa produced in Belize has increased exponentially since then, making their product competitive on the international stage -- doing this ancient delicacy justice once again. Our partner, Valrhona, is similarly committed to improving the techniques and lives of producers in this way, making them a natural choice for us.
THE PLANTATION: MAYA MOUNTAIN CACAO
Xibun River Estate, in the middle of which stands a Mayan archaeological site, is located in the center of Belize.The terroir is fertile, watered and, although not certified, does not receive any herbicide or pesticide. The cocoa trees arrived from Trinidad, Costa Rica and Ecuador in the 1970s and were left to decay at the beginning of this century. This richness is coming back to life since 2014 and the rehabilitation of the plantation with Valrhona.
PHOTOGRAPHIES: RIOT HOUSE PRODUCTION FOR VALRHONA