Thursday, August 9, 2007

Belizean Cacao-where your Green and Black's chocolate comes from.


Many of you have probably heard of the famed UK based organic chocolate company Green and Black's, originally owned by Craig Sams, organic foods mogul, all-round genius and a nice guy. If you don't, you can learn more here: Green and Black's Story . Unfortunately for some of us, Craig is always looking to the next big thing in organic foods, so Cadbury Schweppes is now the proud owner of Green and Black's. Leaving our hemp-clad entrepreneur to his next vision, lets take a look at what G&B does. They make awesome chocolate and they make it well. However, now is the moment for me to come clean. I'm not entirely unbiased in this account. In fact, I might be considered one of the more compromised sources of information on Green and Blacks and its delicious products, because my family is one of many in our part of Belize who grow and sell organic, fair trade cacao beans to the company.

Our cacao trees are grown in a mixed vegetation, shaded environment along with bananas, coconuts, indigenous shade trees and other crops. During harvest time we cut pods like the ones you see in the picture at the top right hand side of my blog. Once we have enough we mount a good old fashioned cacao bustin' party-sitting on old beer crates under a rose-apple tree, we crack open all the pods by hand and dump the white slippery beans into 5 gallon buckets. These are poured into a wooden box lined with banana leaves, covered with more leaves, and weighed down with boards and stones. The beans are regularly turned and fermented for about a week. At this point we spread them out on a tarp and dry them in the sun. It is only then that the characteristic bitter chocolate scent can be detected rising from the drying beans, as prior to fermentation they do not taste like chocolate by any stretch of the imagination.

Thanks to a long ripening season, our cacao is processed in small batches, and then sold to the Toledo Cacao Growers Association. We are the only cacao farmers belonging to the association who are not Mopan Maya-one of the groups of Mayan peoples who established powerful city states in past centuries.

All the cacao that we and other Belizean farmers produce goes into one delicious Green and Black's chocolate bar: the Maya Gold bar. This scrumptious dark chocolate, orange and spice flavoured bar is a treat to be savoured slowly. I enjoy it even more knowing that somewhere in there might be a few molecules of cacao harvested from trees that I planted myself. If you want more details, Chocolate Obsession has a great review of Maya Gold.

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