One of the ambitions Uncommon Cacao has is to give specialty chocolate makers a transparent connection to the cacao they work with and love. Few chocolate makers have the time or travel budgets for regular trips so when it’s possible, we have such a great time together! This year Uncommon hosted teams from Chequessett Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, Palette de Bine, Hazel Hill, Dormouse Chocolates , Videri Chocolate Factory, Kilian & Close, and Or Dubh Chocolates and they traveled together in both Guatemala and Belize.
Arrival in Guatemala
The 2023 group of makers who traveled with us for Chocolate Week(s) began the journey in Cobán at the head quarters of Cacao Verapaz, where they were welcomed with a delicious tasting of freshly ground cacao from a variety of a producers in the region.
They spent the afternoon learning more about the team and operations at Cacao Verapaz and the quality lab. The group conducted a sensory evaluation of multiple Guatemalan origins together, and tasted local fruits that represent sensory notes often found in the cacao sourced across Alta Verapaz.
Cahabón & ADIOESMAC
Next, they traveled to the Cahabón area, home to indigenous Q’eqchi’ smallholder farmers and the most rural growing region in the Cacao Verapaz network.
They visited the ADIOESMAC association central fermentation and drying facility (Hola, Ron Sweetser from Dandelion Chocolate!), observed a buying day at the new Cacao Verapaz Acopio operation, and visited the new Acopio post-harvest facility.
The group traveled on to one of Guatemala’s most famous natural sites, Semuc Champey, and enjoyed a swim in the limestone pools in the deep forest of this mountainous region.
They then headed onwards to spend the night at an Eco Lodge in Chisec, the gateway to the award-winning Lachuá cacao growing region. After dinner, the Uncommon and Cacao Verapaz teams led a fireside chat about ethical sourcing practices and the evolution of these practices over the years.
Lachuá & ASODRIP
The next day the group traveled to Lachuá, where they met with the leaders and producers in the ASODIRP association and were guided through the post harvest process that produces some of the most award winning beans in the industry.
The rest of the day was enjoyed hiking to visit farms and learning about the indigenous Alta Verapaz lifestyle, touring a local cardamom farm and then hanging out by the beautiful turquoise Icbolay river.
Ferry to Maya Mountain
From Guatemala, most of the group traveled on by ferry to Punta Gorda, Belize for a beautiful morning on the water.
Once they arrived, the day was spent at the Maya Mountain Cacao headquarters where they toured the fermentation and drying center and took a deep dive into post-harvest operations and quality evaluation.
Smallholders in Southern Belize
The following day, the group of makers journeyed to visit farms in San Antonio and San Jose, two of the most productive and historic cacao producing villages in southern Belize.
The harvested and cracked pods with growers before transporting them back to the Maya Mountain facility where they learned about the fermentation process first hand.
Hello Mike, our adventurous sourcing director cracking pods with chocolate makers Kristen Reed and Jess Drake Cook from Chequessett Chocolate!
Local Chocolate & River Swimming
On the last day, the adventurous makers visited with the owner of a local Q’eqchi’ chocolate company, JunajPu, in the village of San Miguel, and tasted chocolate made using traditional methods.
That afternoon the group went swimming in the river near Big Falls village on their way back home to the jungle lodge for their last night.
Bonjour to Benjamin! Our fearless General Manager of Uncommon Europe.