We represent 3 cacao farms near Punta Gorda, in southern Belize.
The farms are within 10 miles (16 Km) from each other, and within 15 miles of the 2 local buyers of "wet beans", to whom we sell part of our production. The farms are managed by the same resident individuals, who in a couple of instances are also shareholders. This ensures quality conttol and continuity.
The first farm, near Machaca creek, is a 300 acre property, of which 66 acres are planted with cacao and 80 acres with teak and mahogany hardwoods, with room for expansion. The cacao trees in this farm are on the average 4 year old, and are starting to produce very well.
The second farm, 60 acres, near Rio Grande, is completely organic and USDA certified. The trees are 5 year old, planted in shade, under the canopy of the forest. These trees are now productive, and a portion of the crop is used locally to produce chocolate for the hotels and lodges of the area. A certain portion of the crop is available for international sales. These trees are fertilized with chicken manure, orange peels, and dolomite from near by rocks.
The third farm is the newest one, but also the largest one. A large piece of land, used in the past for pasture, was purchased in 2015 by a group of 8 shareholders. In 2016 the first 100 acres of cacao were planted. In 2017 another 45000 cacao trees were planted for a total of 200 acres.
With the coming rainy season, another 50000 trees are due to be interred, and the same for 2019.
So by 2019 -2020 season the finca will start to produce, and the crop volume will grow each year, as the trees become mature.
In this location we have created the fermentation, drying, and storage facility for all farms. This was done of course not only to optimize the resources, but also to ensure a strict quality control of the batches, and a consistently high quality product. In particular we use two processes for our beans:
- TRADITIONAL mayan, which calls for 4 or 5 days of fermentation (dependent on weather, temperature,humidity) followed by slow sun drying of the beans. The sun drying process is also dependent on weather, hence we created a series of retractable wooden tables that are moved to a covered area in case of rain. The greenhouses have electric fans to remove the humidity. In order to obtain a 7% humidity of the beans, it is usually necessary to have 5 -7 days of good sun.
- SPECIAL, which is a process developed by us where we obtain, with only 3 or 4 days, a fermented bean that has a stronger and more distinct taste, which we believe may be useful to chocolatiers for speciality 70% or 80% bars. The drying process follows the traditional method.