Taza Chocolate and Cotton Tree Lodge to offer educational Chocolate Week trip to Belize in March 2011

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Cotton Tree Lodge, a jungle lodge in Belize, Central America, and Taza Chocolate, an organic bean to bar chocolate company located in Somerville, Massachusetts, are partnering to offer an educational chocolate-themed trip to Belize, March 19 – 26, 2011.

Cotton Tree Lodge, a jungle lodge in Belize, Central America, and Taza Chocolate, an organic bean to bar chocolate company located in Somerville, Massachusetts, are partnering to offer an educational chocolate-themed trip to Belize, March 19 – 26, 2011.

“Chocolate Week” is an 8 day/7 night all-inclusive Belize vacation led by Alex Whitmore, co-founder of Taza Chocolate. The itinerary is structured to give guests a complete understanding of the tree-to-bar chocolate making process. The week begins with visits to organic cacao farms, where participants learn about growing, harvesting, fermenting, and drying cacao (cocoa) beans. Midweek, guests are introduced to issues of Fair Trade chocolate, organic certification, and cacao sourcing through a visit to the Toledo Cacao Grower’s Association cooperative and presentations by Taza staff. Finally, participants will try their hands at making their own chocolate bars alongside the staff of Cotton Tree Chocolate, a small sister company of Cotton Tree Lodge. Throughout the week, guests will learn more about the modern Maya people and their ancestors’ rich history of cacao use—for currency, for ceremonies, and for food.

The chocolate agenda will be complimented by excursions to some of southern Belize’s most unique cultural and natural attractions, including Mayan ruins, caves, and waterfalls. Snorkeling along the Belize Barrier Reef will also be available.

The trip will be based out of Cotton Tree Lodge in the Toledo District of southern Belize. Toledo, with its tropical lowland climate and ties to the ancient Maya, is quickly emerging as a desirable source for organic theobroma cacao. Green & Black’s Chocolate currently sources cacao for their Maya Gold bars from the Toledo Cacao Growers Association. Taza Chocolate has begun constructing a cacao fermentation and drying facility on the Cotton Tree Lodge grounds, with plans to eventually source enough Belizean cacao to produce single origin chocolate bars in their US factory.

This is the second Chocolate Week trip that Cotton Tree Lodge and Taza have offered together. The May 2010 Chocolate Week trip sold out in a few weeks. The 2011 trip is limited to 22 participants and is also expected to sell out.

Trip leader Alex Whitmore co-founded Taza Chocolate in 2006. Taza produces artisan, stone-ground, 100% organic chocolate based on traditional methods that Alex learned in Oaxaca, Mexico. As an experienced chocolate maker with a deep commitment to equitable treatment of cacao growers, Alex enjoys showing guests where their chocolate comes from.

Cotton Tree Lodge, the Belize resort which will host the chocolate week, has been offering its guests chocolate-related activities since opening in 2007. Over 375 cacao trees grow on the property, a small sister company called Cotton Tree Chocolate operates in Punta Gorda, and lodge guests can tour nearby cacao farms. The lodge, which was featured on the January/February 2010 cover of National Geographic Traveler, has been recognized for its commitment to cultural and environmental sustainability.

Chocolate Week runs from March 19 - 26, 2011. Rates start at $1572 per person for the week based on double occupancy, and include accommodation in a thatched cabana with private bath, meals, transfers from/to Punta Gorda Airstrip, all chocolate making workshops, all tours as detailed on the itinerary, and on-site activities including horseback riding, nature walks, and kayaking. The rates do not include flights, 11% Hotel Tax, alcoholic beverages, gratuity and ocean excursions such as fishing and snorkeling. The trip is limited to 22 participants and is expected to sell out.

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Holly Masek
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