Week Nine: Cocoa in Rio Dulce


This week we had the honor of visiting our friend’s family farm on the Caribbean coast. It’s extraordinary to me how geographically diverse this tiny country is. In just four hours we went from the cool, volcanic mountains of Antigua, through the dry desert, and out to bright blue waters and tropical canopies.

Our friend’s farm, Izabal Agro Forest (http://izabalagroforest.com/), is located on the shores of Rio Dulce, the river that connects Lake Izabal to the Caribbean. (Good spot for a farm, no?) This is the land where chocolate (cocoa) comes from. Where Mayans first turned the raw cacao fruit into something delicious over 2,500 years ago.

Over time, this area has turned it’s cacao forests and tropical forests into rolling hills of cattle pastures, striping the land of it’s nutrient-rich soil. But, for the last three decades, Izabal Agro Forest has been striving to restore the land to it’s original form. They’ve planted endangered hardwood trees like Mahogany, Rosewood, Cocobolo and Tropical Cedar. Under that canopy they’ve reintroduced heirloom cacao trees, bringing back the crop that their ancestors cultivated and treasured.

It’s a naturally symbiotic and sustainable tropical forest. Tall hardwood trees tower over the short, leafy cacao trees. These trees bear fruit from their trunks. Sweet like mango when fresh and chocolatey goodness when dried, roasted and ground (then changing it’s name from raw cacao to cocoa). The forest, once cut down and quiet, is now full of life. And it’s heaven to walk through.

Love chocolate? Izabal Agro Forest (http://izabalagroforest.com/) is working on setting up a cocoa lab at their farm! Lick your lips and head over to their CROWD FUNDING CAMPAIGN (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-our-family-farm-build-a-cocoa-lab#home) to give a little and get some tasty treats in return.