To get to their homes and farms, we walked the better part of an hour up and down steep slopes and crossing a precarious cable footbridge across the Cahabón River. We were welcomed with open arms into a place that felt like cacao Narnia. We walked along the river amongst thirty-year-old cacao trees lining the hills, sprouting vibrant red, yellow and green pods. With no electricity or roads in the area, it felt as if we were in a completely different world. Surrounded by nature, we felt peaceful, and calm as we explored the trees and learned about their ancient cacao rituals.
After our island retreat, we explored a beautiful cacao forest at Martín's family-run cacao farm in Belize. We were greeted with bottles of fresh cacao juice recently made and frozen, which made our entire group light up with excitement. Cacao juice is very sweet and will ferment quickly if not kept frozen, making storage, shipping, and distribution outside of the country a prohibitive challenge.
Our last stop in Belize was a visit with Minni and the team at Maya Mountain Cacao. MMC, founded in 2010, put Belize on the craft chocolate map as the first exporter in the country to produce high-quality, centrally-fermented, transparently sourced cacao. They have 400+ certified organic smallholder cacao farming families in their network, most of them indigenous Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya.