About Toledo Cacao
What type of bean does Belizean Gold use and what is the difference?
Toledo Cacao uses Trinitario studded with heirloom Criollo
Types of Beans:
There are three main varieties of cocoa plant: Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. The first is the most widely used, comprising 95% of the world production of cocoa. Overall, the highest quality cocoa beanscome from the Criollo variety, which is considered a delicacy. Criollo plantations have lower yields than those of Forastero, and also tend to be less resistant to several diseases that attack the cocoa plant, hence very few countries still produce it. One of the largest producers of Criollo beans is Venezuela (Chuao and Porcelana). Trinitario is a hybrid between Criollo and Forastero varieties. It is considered to be of much higher quality than the latter, but has higher yields and is more resistant to disease than the former.
What can you tell me about Belize?
Located between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize is a small open economy with economic ties to Central America and the Caribbean. Economic activity is primarily focused on agriculture, agro-processing and tourism. Over the past 15 years, economic activity has continued to shift away from agriculture, where the contribution to GDP has fallen from 17% in 2003 to 13% in 2012, while the service sector has remained the largest GDP contributor at approximately 54%.
How does Toledo Cacao work with the Mayan Farmers to develop Belizean Gold?
Toledo Cacao is committed to maintaining direct relationships with our cacao farmers and compensating them fairly for the high quality cacao they produce. Currently we pay 22% per pound higher then the two major bean buyers in Belize.
One area that Toledo Cacao is working is the “aging farmer syndrome” that is plaguing subsistence level farming all over the world. In southern Belize the average farmer is between 50 and 60 years old, and this age cohort makes up the majority of farmers in the area. In Toledo only 27% of farmers are under 40 years of age, and many younger individuals are leaving the south for employment opportunities elsewhere. Family members constitute 98.5% of persons used for all farm operations.
Similarly, in West Africa, which produces about 70 percent of the world‟s cocoa, the average age of a cocoa farmer is 51, and the younger generation is abandoning farming for a living. This trend has prompted Toledo Cacao to begin development of a training facility/chocolate factory to teach the younger Mayan generation of opportunities within the cacao industry that include but are not limited to chocolate making, sales, shipping, fermenting, drying, packaging
What Made you get into the cacao business?
We had the opportunity to taste the cacao from Belize and found it to be some of the finest in the world. We then got excited about chocolate and started a small 5-acre farm. From there we grew to 200 acres and started working with the local Mayan farmers too provide beans to ultra premium chocolate makers.
What is your fermenting process?
We buy fresh cacao beans from Mayan farmers and immediately load them into 4-tier hardwood fermentation boxes and closely monitor for 5-7 days with regular bean rotation; temperature control and daily bean cuttings to test the fermentation level.
What is your drying process?
Fermented cacao is dried on large decks for approximately one week. Each batch is raked consistently and hand sorted into Grain-Pro lined burlap bags for export. The moisture level of the beans is tested to insure moisture is 7% or lower. The moisture test is taken daily with 3 samples averaged to insure the proper level of dryness.
General Questions about Chocolate
Chocolate Liquor: The chocolate-flavored portion of chocolate; obtained by grinding and liquefying chocolate nibs.
Cocoa butter: The vegetable fat portion of chocolate; removed for cocoa; added for chocolate
Cocoa (Powder): Chocolate from which all but 10-25% of the cocoa butter has been removed.
What is the main harvest period?
October through June
What is chocolate? Where does it come from?
Chocolate is a food made from the seeds of a tropical tree called the cacao. These trees flourish in warm, moist climates. Most of the world’s cacao beans come from West Africa, where Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria are the largest producers. Belizean Gold Cacao comes from the tiny country of Belize in Central America.
What is the history of chocolate?
In 600 A.D. the Mayans migrated into the northern regions of South America, establishing the earliest known cocoa plantations in the Yucatan. It has been argued that the Mayans had been familiar with cocoa several centuries prior to this date. They considered it a valuable commodity, used both as a means of payment and as units of calculation.
Mayans and Aztecs took beans from the “cacao” tree and made a drink they called “xocolatl.” Aztec Indian legend held that cacao seeds had been brought from Paradise and that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree. Early chocolate was only consumed in beverage form.
The first chocolate house was reputedly opened in London in 1657 by a Frenchman. Costing 10 to 15 shillings per pound, chocolate was considered a beverage for the elite class. Sixteenth-century Spanish historian Oviedo noted: “None but the rich and noble could afford to drink chocolate as it was literally drinking money. Cocoa passed currency as money among all nations; thus a rabbit in Nicaragua sold for 10 cocoa nibs, and 100 of these seeds could buy a tolerably good slave.”
With the Industrial Revolution came the mass production of chocolate, spreading its popularity among the citizenry. Chocolate was introduced to the United States in 1765 when John Hanan brought cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts, to refine them with the help of Dr. James Baker. The first chocolate factory in the country was established there. Yet, chocolate wasn’t really accepted by the American colonists until fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, accepted cocoa beans as payment for cargo in tropical America.
Where chocolate was mostly considered a beverage for centuries, and predominantly for men, it became recognized as an appropriate drink for children in the seventeenth century. It had many different additions: milk, wine, beer, sweeteners, and spices. Drinking chocolate was considered a very fashionable social event.
Eating chocolate was introduced in 1674 in the form of rolls and cakes,served in the various chocolate emporiums. Nestle (The History of Chocolate and Cocoa, p. 3) declares that from 1800 to the present day, these four factors contributed to chocolate’s “coming of age” as a worldwide food product:
1. The introduction of cocoa powder in 1828;
2. The reduction of excise duties;
3. Improvements in transportation facilities, from plantation to factory;
4. The invention of eating chocolate, and improvements in manufacturing
In 1980 a story of chocolate espionage hit the world press when an apprentice of the Swiss company of Suchard-Tobler unsuccessfully attempted to sell secret chocolate recipes to Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. By the 1990s, chocolate had proven its popularity as a product, and its success as a big business. Annual world consumption of cocoa beans averages approximately 600,000 tons, and per capita chocolate consumption is greatly on the rise. Chocolate manufacturing in the United States is a multibillion-dollar industry.
How is chocolate made?
Workers cut the fruit of the cacao tree, or pods open and scoop out the beans. These beans are allowed to ferment and then dry. Then they are cleaned, roasted and hulled. Once the shells have been removed they are called nibs. Nibs are blended much like coffee beans, to produce different colors and flavors. Then they are ground up and the cocoa butter is released. The heat from the grinding process causes this mixture of cocoa butter and finely ground nibs to melt and form a free-flowing substance known as chocolate liquor. From there, different varieties of chocolate are produced.
What is conching?
Raw unprocessed chocolate is gritty, grainy and really not suitable for eating. Swiss chocolate manufacturer Rudolph Lindt (yes *that* Lindt for which the brand was named) discovered a process of rolling and kneading chocolate that gives it the smoother and richer quality that eating chocolate is known for today. The name ‘conching’ comes from the shell-like shape of the rollers used. The longer chocolate is conched, the more luxurious it will feel on your tongue.
What kinds of chocolate are there?
Depending on what is added to (or removed from) the chocolate liquor, different flavors and varieties of chocolate are produced. Each has a different chemical make-up, the differences are not solely in the taste. Be sure, therefore, to use the kind the recipe calls for, as different varieties will react differently to heat and moisture. Unsweetened or Baking chocolate is simply cooled, hardened chocolate liquor. It is used primarily as an ingredient in recipes, or as a garnish. Semi-sweet chocolate is also used primarily in recipes. It has extra cocoa butter and sugar added. Sweet cooking chocolate is basically the same, with more sugar for taste. Milk chocolate is chocolate liquor with extra cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla added. This is the most popular form for chocolate. It is primarily an eating chocolate.
Cocoa is chocolate liquor with much of the cocoa butter removed, creating a fine powder. It can pick up moisture and odors from other products, so you should keep cocoa in a cool, dry place, tightly covered.
White chocolate is somewhat of a misnomer. In the United States, in order to be legally called ‘chocolate’ a product must contain cocoa solids. White chocolate does not contain these solids, which leaves it a smooth ivory or beige color. Real white chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. There are some products on the market that call themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter. Check the label to avoid these cheap imitations. White chocolate is the most fragile form of chocolate; pay close attention to it while heating or melting it.
What is this white, blotchy stuff on my chocolate bar?
A white, filmy residue on chocolate is called a bloom. It occurs when some of the cocoa butter in the chocolate separates from the cocoa solids, usually when the chocolate is stored in a warm area. If you buy a chocolate bar and find it has bloomed, don’t let the sales person convince you the taste has not been altered.
I just bought a whole bunch of chocolate. How should I store it?
Chocolate is best kept at around 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a nice pantry or dark cabinet. Kept at this temperature,
chocolate (assuming it isn’t covering fruit or other perishables) has a
shelf life of about a year. Freezing chocolate isn’t such a great idea;
when you freeze it, then thaw it out, it will have a greater tendency to
bloom. but if you must, let it warm gradually to room temperature before
you try cooking with it.
Shipping our Products
How are the beans shipped and stored?
The beans are bagged into Grain-Pro lined burlap bags and stacked on pallets and loaded into shipping containers and shipped from Belize to Florida. From there any beans required for the east coast and Midwest are separated and delivered directly to the customer. The balance of the beans are trucked to Los Angeles and stored in a dry facility until delivered to customers on a need basis.
What is the shipping schedule for cacao beans?
Like any agricultural commodity cacao beans have seasons. The seasonal shipments typically would arrive in the U.S. in April/May and August/September. However, we can store and ship any amount of cacao to anywhere in the U.S. on an as-needed basis.
Any plans to provide beans to Europe?
Yes, we are currently exploring that possibility and setting up the infrastructure to handle shipment of beans to Europe. Once interest level is confirmed we will pursue setting a European office and distribution center.
Cooking with chocolate
Chocolate is a very tricky food to cook with. Temperatures that are too high can scorch it, temperatures too low can cause it to harden unevenly. It must be watched very carefully. But if you can master the art, you can create some breathtaking desserts.
How do I melt chocolate and what's the best kind to use?
There are two ways to melt chocolate, in a double boiler or in a microwave:
1. Double boiler method: A double boiler is basically two pots designed to fit together for melting wand warming fragile foods. The bottom pot holds a bit of water – never enough to touch the bottom of the second pot, the top holds the food, in this case chocolate. You should never place chocolate directly on a heat source, you run the risk of scorching it. Cut the chocolate up into small pieces, this will reduce the melting time. Adjust the heat so that the water in the bottom pot gets hot but doesn’t begin to boil. Place the chocolate in the top pot and stir every so often. Dark and bittersweet chocolate are the most ‘hardy’ forms of chocolate, they will require less stirring than milk and white chocolates, which will burn very easily if you do not pay close attention.
2. Microwave method: Place chopped pieces of chocolate into a microwave proof bowl and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl, stir what you can then return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds. Continue this until the chocolate is just about melted. You might be tempted to increase the time intervals, but remember that warmed chocolate will keep its shape, even if it is melted, unless it is stirred. Don’t judge time on looks alone. When the chocolate is almost completely melted, remove it from the microwave and stir, letting the warmth of the bowl and surrounding chocolate complete the melting.
I was melting some chocolate, and suddenly it changed from a shiny, smooth liquid to a dull, thick paste. What happened?
Chocolate is very sensitive. Any slight variance from the instructions can cause disastrous results. What you have described here is called seizing. Seizing can happen for several reasons:
1. The chocolate is burned. Even temperatures that aren’t too hot for your finger can be too hot for chocolate. When melting chocolate, keep the heat low and keep stirring, especially for milk and white chocolates.
2. A *small* amount of moisture has been added. Chocolate is very finicky about liquids. Even the moisture from a damp spoon can contaminate a batch of melting chocolate. This is what happens after a while to chocolate fondue – moisture from strawberries or cheese can ruin the texture. Be careful if you are melting pure chocolate by itself to keep everything very dry.
3. Cool liquids have been added. Another oddity about chocolate: small amounts of liquid can spoil melted chocolate, but large amounts are o.k., so long as the liquid is warmed to match the temperature of the melted chocolate. If you add cold cream or milk, for example, the chocolate will begin to solidify and you’ll end up with a mess. Regardless of how your chocolate gets seized, you’ll have to throw it out and start again.
Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac?
Chocolate is the traditional gift of love, ranking right up there with roses as the most romantic gift one can give. But is it really an aphrodisiac? There is some evidence that the answer might be yes. Chocolate contains three substances, caffeine, theobromine and phenyethylamine that might be related to this myth. Caffeine acts as a stimulant. Theobromine stimulates the heart muscle and the nervous system. And phenyethylamine is reputed to be a mood elevator and an anti-depressant. The combination of these three substances, giving you extra energy,making your heart beat faster, making you a bit jumpy and slightly giddy….well, you can see how chocolate could be linked to love. In fact, Montezuma used to drink a frothy chocolate beverage before going to visit one of his wives.
Can I give chocolate to my dog (cat, bird, other pet)?
Unequivocally, no. The theobromine in chocolate that stimulates the
cardiac and nervous systems is too much for dogs, especially smaller pups.
A chocolate bar is poisonous to dogs and can even be lethal. The same holds true for cats, and other household pets.
How much caffeine is in chocolate?
Although there is less caffeine in chocolate that there is in a cup of coffee, people who are avoiding caffeine should unfortunately stay away from chocolate as well. There are about 30 milligrams of caffeine in your average chocolate bar, while a cup of coffee contains around 100 to 150 milligrams.
Doesn't chocolate cause acne?
This is another myth about chocolate. While some people might be
allergic to chocolate, or some of its ingredients, the belief that chocolate causes acne universally has been disproven by doctors for some time.