tasting belize-made chocolate–from modern to traditional

It’s nice to see the world has been discovering the incredible flavour profiles of Belizean chocolate. Whether it’s made in the country where the fruity flavoured cacao is grown, or the chocolate is made abroad with cocoa beans that have been shipped to a growing number of chocolate makers, Belize chocolate is winning an increasing number of international awards and is worth searching for.

belize-chocolate

Belize is growing great tasting cacao and making some terrific chocolate.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was invited to Belize by the Belize Cacao Consortium who operate the Peini Cacao Plantation. This multi-national company also makes Mahogany Chocolate from their cocoa beans, so I will begin by sharing some information about Mahogany Chocolate (pictured above), originally made in Ambergris Caye in northern Belize, now also being made in the new Peini factory in Punta Gorda located in southern Belize where the cacao is grown. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.

belize-chocolate

Luis Armando Choco is the executive chocolate maker at Mahogany Chocolate. In the picture above, he demonstrates how the roasted cocoa nibs are poured into the top of the crushing machine, and come out a creamy chocolate mass in the bottom within a matter of seconds! This mass is then further refined and processed to create the couverture that makes the finished chocolate products. Mahogany Chocolate has some of the most modern equipment making Belize chocolate.

Mahogany Chocolate provides the pillow truffles for the Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club on Ambergris Caye. Their full line-up of chocolate products can be found at their chocolate workshop in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and at a growing number of locations throughout the country. The chocolate couverture which is used to make the chocolate bars and bonbons is made at the new location in Punta Gorda. Chocolate workshops are offered from the San Pedro location. Mahogany Chocolate makes two primary bars: the Belizean 72% dark chocolate bar, and the Brukdown 50% milk chocolate bar featuring peanuts, cocoa nibs and almonds. The Brukdown (meaning ‘party’ in Belizean) bar is a lot of crunchy fun! Being a nut nut, I quite enjoyed it.

exploring belize chocolate

Also located in Punta Gorda is the Cotton Tree Chocolate workshop and retail store. This operation is in stark contrast to Mahogany Chocolate’s operation, which is high-tech and sanitized. At Chocolate Tree, a rooster was assisting with the roasting process. Just kidding, but there was indeed a rooster on the counter while the cocoa beans were in the counter-top roaster and cocoa beans were being hand peeled out back.

belize-chocolate

You’ll find Cotton Tree Chocolate in the heart of Punta Gorda and at the Belize Chocolate Festival.

belize-chocolate

I wonder if roosters enjoy pecking at cocoa nibs? This one seemed to be attracted to the smell of the roasting cocoa beans.

From Punta Gorda, we made our way to Placencia, which is where I met Lyra Spang, owner of Taste Belize. Lyra conducts chocolate tours to Ixcacao Maya Belizean Chocolate owned by Juan and Abelina Cho, whose cocoa farm is located in San Felipe, in the Toledo District of Belize.

chocolate-tour-belize

We didn’t have the time to go there, but we did taste and truly enjoy the 80% dark chocolate bar from Ixcacao and I would highly recommend the tour with Lyra that visits Ixcacao. Enjoy some free samples at the Taste Belize tasting hut on the Main Street of Placencia Village. You can book the tours online.

Our next chocolate stop was at Lamanai Chocolate Company on the Hummingbird Highway, as we made our way toward Belize City. Here, chocolate is made in the Maya tradition and the cocoa beans are hand ground using your muscle power and the metate (a human-powered stone grinder.) Please take one minute to watch the video at this link below to see it in action. This is a very short video, but if you’d like to see the full version, please drop into my YouTube channel where you’ll find the full version of fresh chocolate truffles in the making!

belize-chocolate

Zoila and her husband Roger run Lamanai Chocolate, located at Mile 430 along the Hummingbird Highway of Belize. Zoila proudly shows us the big and beautiful cocoa beans used to make their flavour-filled handmade chocolate in the Maya tradition.

belize-chocolate

Roger Hale and his wife Zoila give chocolate tours at Lamanai Chocolate that show you how their chocolate is handcrafted in the Maya tradition.

Although we didn’t have time to visit them, I can also recommend the chocolate of the Belize Chocolate Company (based in San Pedro) and AJAW Chocolate (based in San Ignacio) who were both kind enough to mail samples to me in Canada. I’m truly grateful for that, as it gave me the opportunity to taste the offerings of all of the major chocolate companies in Belize. Hats off to the Belize Chocolate Company for winning a silver award in the 2018 International Chocolate Awards for its 45% milk chocolate bar. I’ve enjoyed all of their products and especially loved the “Tea O Broma” aromatic cocoa tea made from the husks of roasted cacao beans. It paired exceptionally well with the award-winning milk chocolate.

belize chocolate

 

If you happen to be fortunate enough to be heading to Belize and are interested in learning more about Belize chocolate, you might want to time your visit for the Belize Chocolate Festival. The 2024 Chocolate Festival of Belize is being held May 17-19 in and around Punta Gorda in the Toledo District of Belize. You’ll be in for one tasty time!

If you can’t make it to Belize, but would still like some great tea to pair with your chocolate, visit this link to get a great selection of teas from David’s Tea. They have a special “Hot Chocolate Tea” infused with cocoa nibs and chocolate chips! And for the purists, try the Wild Grown Rooibos. It pairs magnificently with dark chocolate.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

44 Responses

  1. Fedora says:

    Hi Doreen, I’m a chocolate lover and I found your blog post very informative and interesting. I learned a lot about the history and culture of Belize-made chocolate, from the modern to the traditional methods. I was fascinated by the different flavors and textures of the chocolate bars you tasted. I also enjoyed seeing the photos of the chocolate making process and the beautiful scenery of Belize.

  2. Kim Lawrence says:

    I’m really amazed at how well certain teas pair with chocolate. Thanks for this insight into Belizean chocolate and the recommendation of teas that make for interesting pairings with chocolate.

  3. Frances Petrowski says:

    Great post about chocolate in Belize!
    We were there for only one day on a cave tubing excursion while on a cruise. I would love to go for the chocolate festival. There are so many options. Thanks also for the tea and chocolate options. I will definitely be trying that. Thanks

    • Thx so much for your comment, Frances. I promise you would enjoy Belize. It is truly a multi-faceted eco-destination. The chocolate and climate are fantastic. And, yes! You’ve got to try some of that cocoa tea! Perfect for us chocolate lovers. ❤️

  4. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    Been to Belize a while back and experienced an underground cave tour on a rubber raft complete with bats and beasties! I think I would have enjoyed a tour of chocolate makers far more! Thanks for such an in-depth description of this local industry. Maybe next time!

    • Thx so much for your comment, Margaret! I hope you’re doing well. Yes, Belize is such a marvelous multi-faceted destination. My top memory from my 1st trip there was snorkeling with a nurse shark!

  5. Irene Gordon says:

    We visited Belize and had a great time there some years ago.

  6. Always so much good information in your posts, Doreen. I love the idea of pairing tea with chocolate. So often it’s coffee or wine, neither of which I drink. I will check out the David’s Tea suggestions. I love that a tea entrepreneur (Cha Cha Tea) has paired with chocolate maker (Mac’s Chocolate & Bakeshop). They are both in Kingston and have had some lovely success and a couple of events. I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve had from either place.
    https://www.chachatea.com/ https://macschocolate.com/
    Will you be going to the Chocolate Festival in Belize in 2024?

    • Hi Christine and thx so much for your comment.

      Yes, I’m really amazed at how well chocolate pairs with specialty teas. When I first became immersed in the world of artisan chocolate, I was surprised at how many chocolate artisans sold teas in their shops & would recommend pairings.

      Though I am a fan of bold flavour pairings (as in the case of dark chocolate with a bold red wine or dark blend coffee) I’ve come to appreciate the nuances of more subtle pairings as well.

      I don’t think Belize is in our travel plans for 2024, but you never know…

  7. I’m always amazed at how well chocolate goes with tea! Read to the end of the post for a link to some great teas that are perfect for pairing with chocolate.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…celebrating more great chocolate from British Columbia, CanadaMy Profile

  8. Belize and chocolate sound like a match made in heaven 🙂
    Carla Corelli recently posted…Go Suck a Lemon – How to improve your Emotional IntelligenceMy Profile

  9. Greeting Doreen,

    Thank you for adding us to your book. Here is a little for you readers about us.

    AJAW Chocolate, base in San Ignacio is a full Ketchi Maya Family operated. We offer Educational Chocolate with Mayan History Tour also a mini Chocolate History on our wall to self guide. Our guide being a Tour Guide from 2008 he bring his experience of chocolate from ancient to modern. Here our aim is to have Freshly Hand Ground Chocolate but as a Drink with Spices. Thats a well established drink known in the Mundo Maya.
    We welcome everyone to visit, taste and learn.

  10. too bad you overlooked Goss Chocolate! We are located just 1 mile north of Placencia. in Seine Bight Village, and have been operating now for 12 years. cheers–maybe next time!

    • Hello Linn and thanks for your message. I encourage you to send me some of your chocolate, so that I can include you in my write-up about Belize chocolate in my upcoming book. That is what the Belize Chocolate Company did and I am now able to include them as well. Please e-mail me directly via my contact page, and I will provide you with my mailing address. Thanks!

  11. I learn so much from you about the world of chocolate! Thank you so much for sharing your helpful and fascinating information.

  12. Gotravel says:

    It was interesting to watch the cocoa beans being stone ground into Belizean chocolate. Thanks for the video!

  13. So many options for chocolate in Belize. I am a big fan of the stone ground chocolate I’ve had from Mexico, so I’m sure I would enjoy those made at Lamani Chocolate Co. I’m thinking the Tea O Broma would be a wonderful substitute for desert, and I love the fact they are using the husk from the roasted beans.

  14. I’ve been wanting to go to Belize for a while … and finding out about their local chocolate industry makes me even more eager to go! I always end up craving fine chocolate after reading your articles!

  15. Penny says:

    I love chocolate — It doesn’t matter much where it’s from! LOL

    • Hi Penny. Believe me. The more you learn about chocolate, the more your taste buds will come to appreciate fine handcrafted chocolate. And then they will come to learn and identify the different flavour notes from the different origins. It’s much like wine appreciation. The more you learn about it, the more you can appreciate the intricacies of the specific product. Thx for stopping by. 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…tasting belize-made chocolate–from modern to traditionalMy Profile

  16. An International Chocolate Festival would be something to add to my bucket list! Love your updates on chocolate and all that goes into making those wonderful treats!

  17. Another delicious post, this time on Belizean chocolate. Love the rooster at the Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory–he’s obviously at home at the Chocolate Center of the Universe. The country certainly has a lot to celebrate at the Chocolate Festival of Belize.

  18. What an great tour. It was interesting to watch the chocolate being stone ground. I was surprised to see him then just roll some into a ball to make a truffle. It also made me wonder how does heat/tempering alter the taste. You told Carol the taste was incredibly fresh. Are there other changes that come about with the tempering process?

    • Hi Donna and thanks for your comment. You definitely lose flavour when you put chocolate through a lot of processes. Fermentation and low temperature roasting are all you need to develop those rich chocolate flavours. The rest has more to do with texture than flavour. This stone ground Belizean chocolate was incredibly rich and flavourful. But it was not silky smooth like you find in European-made chocolate.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…tasting belize-made chocolate–from modern to traditionalMy Profile

  19. Doreen, how different do chocolates made in the Mayan tradition taste? Where are they available and how do we know if a bar of chocolate was made this way?

  20. Janet says:

    Chocolate tea is excellent and full of antioxidants.

  21. What I find fascinating is how these boutique (artisanal seems overused) chocolate makers have sprung up from the ashes of the big producers like Hershey and Green & Black’s, who used to own an/or source from plantations there. It’s usually the other way around in business. P.S. The roosters seem to follow us wherever we go, Doreen, or maybe we follow them.

  22. Beverly says:

    You have provided your readers with a very thorough tour of the chocolate industry in Belize. As always your writing is very educational. I would not have thought there were so many places associated with chocolate to visit. The reading experience has made me hungry for chocolate!

  23. Linda Paul says:

    Which, of course, supports the idea that there is no one way to do things. Just different ways. 😉

  24. A rooster, eh? Perhaps he’s cheering them on while they do the hard work! It’s wonderful to see the small businesses making a huge success with chocolate!

  25. Linda Paul says:

    Lucky roosters! I think I’d enjoy the Cotton Tree Chocolate establishment!

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