Belcolade cacao plantation of the Yucatan
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting small cacao farms and larger cacao plantations and cooperatives in eight countries (to date!) during my chocolate travels. And without hesitation, I tip my hat to the Belcolade cocoa plantation near Xlapak Labná (meaning “old houses” in the Mayan language) Tikul region of the Yucatan state of Mexico for being the cleanest and best managed operation I have ever seen.
the belcolade cocoa plantation in tikul, mexico, is a well-tuned eco-friendly operation
I’m sure this level of excellence and efficiency is partly due to Mario “Concho,” the very friendly and capable manager of the operation, who was kind enough to not only take me for a guided tour of the 30-hectare (74-acre) farm, but also made me an authentic Mexican lunch afterwards. The Belcolade cacao plantation has 50,000 trees and is located just 40 kilometres from the UNESCO Heritage site at Uxmal.
In 2018, the Belcolade plantation expanded to 330 hectares of land with the purchase of 300 new hectares to plant and develop.
Most of the original cacao trees on the Belcolade plantation are of the Trinitario Uranga varietal, although there are 10 different varietals of Trinitario grown here. Tests are being done to try and increase the amount of Criollo being grown at Belcolade, and help return Mexican chocolate to its authentic form–the finest grade of Criollo. But Criollo is prone to disease, and so the battle continues with test varieties to up the quality and keep the Belcolade plantation disease free.
the belcolade cocoa plantation in mexico is connected to the family of choco story museums and belcolade chocolate in belgium
The Belcolade cocoa plantation in Mexico is owned by renowned Belgian chocolatier Eddy Van Belle of Begium, who also owns the Choco Story chocolate museum in Uxmal, Mexico, and several other Choco Story locations in Europe. Proceeds from the museums go to funding the Cocoa Development Foundation that Van Belle uses to help small farmers improve their practices and help advance other worthy initiatives in the world of chocolate.
Van Belle also makes chocolate in Belgium under the name of Belcolade The Real Belgian Chocolate. It’s amazing how this story is interwoven in so many aspects of the world of chocolate! Belcolade is owned by Puratos, a company that does research and development in the world of chocolate, and oversees the Belcolade operation as part of its service to the chocolate industry by providing quality couverture made in the Belgian tradition. The Belcolade cocoa plantation also supplies cocoa beans to ki’XOCOLATL, the terrific Mexican chocolate maker I visited in Merida. There are other chocolate makers who have hectares of cocoa grown on this land and managed for them by the staff at Belcolade.
I was amazed at the amount of science that is involved in growing cacao. There is cacao grown in the Chiapas region of Mexico, but conditions are not nearly as favourable as they are in Tikul, so the amount of disease is considerable, and the yield much lower. Chiapas has roughly 4,000 millimetres of rain annually. Tikul has only 1,250, making it easier to aerate the crop and keep the trees and pods healthier. As cacao grows best in temperatures ranging from 15-26 degrees Celsius, the climate of the Yucatan is very suitable in nourishing the trees and preventing the monilia disease from spreading. The Tikul area is also blessed with a peat-moss type soil that is ideal for growing cacao. Woodpeckers and squirrels are a constant challenge to the cacao crop.
I have much more detailed information about growing cocoa at Tikul, but it is likely more detailed than many of you care to read. You will, however, find that expanded information in the “Growing Cacao” chapter in volume II of Chocolatour. Do stay tuned for more information about that. And please subscribe to this site if you haven’t already, to ensure you don’t miss a beat, post, or announcement. I also appreciate all your comments, and sharing of my content. It helps raise the rankings of this site, which lets chocolate lovers and cacao enthusiasts find and follow me. Cheers! 🙂