The Original Chocolate Factory

by Alan Rider

oompaloompacrewAlright friends, time for a little game of word association.  Now, if I say “chocolate factory,” you say…what?

If the first words out of your mouth were “Willy Wonka,” give yourself two points for pop culture awareness. If you said “Rocky Mountain,” deduct one point because you’re probably spending way too much time at the mall.  Ten points and the win go to those of you who thought of the ancient Mayans, the first people to grind up the seeds of wild cacao trees and whip them into a bitter chocolate beverage nearly 2,000 years ago. 

Fast forward a couple of millennia and the truly chocolate-obsessed can now get a first-hand look at the origins of this delectable superfood at the Cotton Tree Lodge near Punta Gorda, Belize.  The thatch-roofed jungle outpost, located on the banks of the Moho River, is offering week-long Mayan Chocolate-Making Workshops that give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of everyone’s favorite confection under the guidance of locals who still make the stuff in much the same way their ancestors did.

These special  programs, scheduled for February 8-15 and May 17-24, allow you to gain hands-on experience of every aspect of the traditional process, from picking your own pods at an organic cacao farm to roasting the beans to molding and packaging your own handmade chocolate bars to take home.  If you grow tired of all this chocolatey goodness (as if that’s possible), the resort offers a host of other interesting diversions, including tours of Mayan ruins and a swim through an underground river.

Cacao Pods

Cacao Pods

Oh, and one more thing.  Those of you who blurted out “Oompa-Loompa” in our little test, well, let’s just say you  might want to seriously consider seeking professional help.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rodeo Princess January 8, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I live near Hershey, PA, but obviously not near enough, because I would SO go on this tour. I have the perfect friend for this and I emailed him the link.

2 Carol B January 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm

If you’re on an “adventure trip” and chocolate is involved, does that mean the calories don’t count?

3 Alan Rider January 10, 2009 at 4:39 am

Unfortunately, the calories DO count, but you also have more interesting ways to work them off! I mean swimming through an underground river? Beats the heck out of walking around the block six times!

4 Punta Gorda Belize Hotels December 3, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Love your “Cacao Pods” photo. Thanks

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