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By Candee Tremblay
PUNTA GORDA, BELIZE, February 12, 2009 –Make Way for Revolution in Belize
There's a Chocolate Revolution underway in Southern Belize which began, in the early 90's, just after The Hershey Company packed up and left Belize, leaving Belize's Mayan farmers hanging high and dry. The price of chocolate dipped from $1.75 to 55¢ a pound, leaving devoted chocophiles to choke.
Today, Belize 's Chocolate Revolution is just about as sweet as a fermented cacao pod. The Mayan farmers are packing machetes and pruning implements. Over 200 Mayan farmers in Toledo are reaping the rewards of the fair-trade agricultural practices put into place by Britain's Green and Black's chocolate company, in 1993, in an historic moment that will forever sweeten the annals of agricultural history. Today, organic cacao beans are sold for about $2.30/lb.
If you're into “chocolate with a conscience”, the organic cacao farms of Southern Belize will be your cup of tea. The site of Looey Tremblay's organic cacao farm in Punta Gorda, Belize's Deep South, is the perfect setting for the sequel of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Hunkered under the humid canopy of the lush rainforest, the shade-tolerant cacao trees grow to a height of 20 feet. Swollen with sweet, milky flesh, the ripe pods are a beacon to the forest canopy dwellers.
Munching on ripe cacao pods, the howler monkeys spit out the bitter seeds onto the rainforest floor. The new owner of the cacao plantation, Looey Tremblay, a Canadian, told us that monkeys, birds, bats and gibnuts (a Belizean rodent) were the unpaid workhorses of the cacao farm. He said “They chomp on the cacao pods before they rot, thus dispersing the seeds”.
Mr. Tremblay, who is the Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Property Center in San Ignacio Belize , gave us the lowdown on how his cacao farm provides the beans for the intensely delicious organic chocolate produced by Britain 's famous Green and Black's Organic Chocolatiers .
It all started with a fateful meeting with a couple of Mayan cacao farmers during a real estate scouting trip in Toledo, Belize . Tremblay's links to the Mayans actually began years before he physically visited Belize . In a curious twist of fate, Tremblay's RE/MAX office in Canada is just down the road from where Belize's famous “Crystal Skull” was housed in a motel on Victoria Street in Kitchener , Ontario , Canada . When asked about this, Mr. Tremblay said “Yes, it's a little weird, isn't it…but I'm not about to question the power of the Mayans”. Esteban Bol and Florentina Choc (real name – don't question the power of the Mayans) were Mayan farmers who had harvested and pruned their cacao plantation like their forefathers, for decades. When Mr. Tremblay met them in 2008, they were ready to sell their 14-acre cacao plantation, 6 acres of which were cultivated.
Mr. Tremblay is proud to pay the Mayan farmers a premium rate for the organic cacao, grown without chemicals or artificial fertilizers, which is grown and harvested on his farm. Working closely with Green and Black's agronomist gave Mr. Tremblay an intimate peek into the journey from bean to bar .
While it's a real stretch to believe that anything this delicious could possibly be good for you, Mr. Tremblay assured us that raw cacao really is “food for thought”. He said “It's rich in minerals, antioxidants and is chock full of natural compounds that seem to relieve depression and create feelings of joy”. If you're looking for Brownie points this Valentine's Day, you can't go wrong with Green and Black's Organic Ginger Bar , rated as one of “ Food and Wine Magazine's Top 10 Chocolate Picks for Valentine's Day 2009” .
With a purchase of Green and Black's Maya Gold chocolate, you are supporting about 200 Mayan farmers and their families in the Punta Gorda area of Southern Belize . If you'd like to discover more about the chocolate revolution that is taking place in the heart of Belize 's rainforest, please contact Looey Tremblay at [email protected] .
Looey Tremblay, RE/MAX Belize Property Center
Tele: 501-824-0550; Email: [email protected]