Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cotton Trees and Cocoa Nibs - April 30, 2013

Chocolate of the Day: 

Cotton Tree Chocolate
Cocoa Nib Crunch (bar)
Calories: 183 calories for 1/3 bar
Cost: $15.00 Belize dollars ($7.50 US Dollars)
Purchased from: Advance Tees shop in Belize International Airport, Belize City, Belize

This week I'm enjoying chocolate brought home from Belize, including today's sweet, milk chocolate (46% cacao) Cocoa Nib Crunch bar from Cotton Tree Chocolate (Punta Gorda, Belize). My favorite part: the nibs - packed with earthy, unsweetened chocolatey flavor.

This was the first chocolate brand/bar that I saw in Belize. I snapped one up at a shop in the Belize International Airport within an hour of arriving -- just in case I might not see it again. However, I needn't have worried, as I was on my way to the Toledo District in Southern Belize -- known for its cacao farms and chocolate.

Later in the week, I had the privilege of visiting the Cotton Tree Chocolate factory store in Punta Gorda town (a few miles from where I was staying, at the Belcampo Lodge and Farm). And I bought more bars after seeing chocolate made there. (Thanks again to Juli for the tour.)

Cotton Trees and Cacao
When I first arrived in Belize, I noticed strips of leather-like bark with fluffy, cream-colored cottony fluff attached. I soon figured out (by looking straight up) that these had fallen from a Cotton Tree.

The Cotton Tree (also known as the Ceiba tree) is a tall tree that towers above the jungle canopy in Belize. Revered by the people, and tied to Maya legends, this tree has a massive root system (similar to a large fig or banyan tree). I hiked through undergrowth, around vines, and over limestone rocks to see the roots of one massive tree up close (see photo) while in Belize. (Thank you Desmond for leading the way.)

Cacao and Cotton Trees both grow in forested areas in Belize, and other areas of Latin America. Cacao trees grow well with some shade cover. I think if I was a cacao tree, I would feel fortunate to have some shade from a Cotton Tree.

Maya Mountain Cacao, Cotton Tree Lodge
While in Belize, I also took a brief tour of the Maya Mountain Cacao fermentation and drying operation at the Cotton Tree Lodge (both were within sight of another very large, majestic Cotton Tree).

Belcampo's first batch of chocolate made in the chocolate building of their new Agritourism facility on their property in Punta Gorda was made in part with beans from Maya Mountain Cacao.

Next post will include more on this tour...

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