This March, Somerville-based Taza Chocolate brings the know-where-your-food-comes-from movement to a new level by inviting chocolate lovers on a cocoa adventure in Belize.
Taza’s fourth annual Chocolate Week offers participants a firsthand look into the origin of cacao—the fruit from which cocoa beans are harvested— its history and creation into the final chocolate product. Alex Whitmore, co-founder of Taza Chocolate, said this trip is a way for Taza to bridge the gap between chocolate and its consumer.
“Our company is a very mission-driven organization,” Whitmore said. “We’re big fans of know-where-your-food-comes-from and local food, but chocolate is one of those things you can’t really source locally.” For this reason, Taza offers consumers the opportunity to travel to the food.
Taza has stake ownership in Maya Mountain Cacao, the farm Chocolate Week visitors will visit during their stay. Whitmore said Taza works directly with Belizean farmers, and that the trip is a great opportunity for chocolate consumers to meet the people who grow the beans.
“It’s a great trip for people who are really interested in chocolate, or who just want to learn where their food comes from,” Whitmore said. “Instead of going to a resort, they get to see how a whole industry operates.”
The price of Chocolate Week ranges from about $1200 for a place in the bunkhouse to $2000, for a single occupancy room. Children under 12 are half priced.
The trip itinerary includes visting cacao farms, meeting local farmers, making your own chocolate, learning about ancient Mayan chocolate-making and plenty of chocolate sampling.
Chocolate Week participants stay at the Cotton Tree Lodge, an eco-friendly, 100-acre lodge nestled in the rainforest along the Moho River. Jeff Pzena, co-owner of the lodge, said that Chocolate Week is not simply a get-away, but an opportunity for visitors to connect with another culture.
“Belize is an English speaking country, so communication is pretty easy,” Pzena said. “A lot of people think they’re coming down to experience the natural beauty or Mayan ruins, but what they come away with is a connection with someone in another part of the world.” He added that for this trip, chocolate is the key component that brings everyone together.
Jenn Fugo, a Philadelphia-based health coach, attended Chocolate Week 2011. She said her favorite part of the trip was travelling to a local cacao farm and witnessing firsthand the origins of chocolate.
“The trip gave me a much deeper respect for all the different steps that go into a chocolate bar,” Fugo said. “In our society, we don’t fully understand all the hands that work to provide us with chocolate . . . We forget all the effort, labor and love that goes into growing those beans in the first place.”
Whitmore said that the main goal of Chocolate Week is education. He said the more people that can see where chocolate comes from and the process it goes through, the better.
“Chocolate Week is a way for us to share all the work we do on the ground, in the country with the producers we work with,” Whitmore said. “[It’s for] our customers and people who are interested [in chocolate], and people who really want to know where their food comes from.”
Chocolate Week 2013 will take place from March 16-23. For more information, visit Taza Chocolate’s website.