It is well documented that the first glimpse that Europeans had of cacao was in Honduras. During his fourth and last voyage, Columbus arrived at the Island of Guanaja, in present day Honduras. There he encountered a large dugout canoe with Paya natives. They had different supplies in their canoe but were very protective of their cacao. Columbus managed barter some cacao seeds to take back to Spain. Archaeological evidence also puts the most ancient proof of chocolate within the territory of Honduras. So, there is no doubt that chocolate is native to Honduras. The climate conditions in Atlantida are ideal for cacao plantations. The FHIA (Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research) has been actively promoting the expansion of Cacao Plantations in the region.
There are several places where you can see cacao plantations in Atlantida. The Lancetilla Botanical Gardens in Tela is one of the best. However, there is also an extensive cacao plantation at the entrance to the grounds of the Lodge at Pico Bonito in La Ceiba. You can see the cacao trees and the cacao pods growing right off the trunk in these plantations. The Cangrejal River Valley also offers the chance to see visit different plantations, with the added benefit that some of them even produce their own chocolate! Yes, there is chocolate in Atlantida and you can visit the farms and buy some chocolate during your stay in our destination.
The first of these cacao plantations in the Cangrejal River Valley is in the lower area of the valley. They use the cacao from their farm to produce an artisan chocolate they market under the brand of Xocolatl. Their artisan process results in outstanding chocolate products. Although they do not produce the chocolate within the farm, you can certainly visit the farm and buy their products in La Ceiba. This is indeed one of the best options for chocolate in Atlantida!
A second cacao farm is across the road from Jungle River Lodge at km 8 of the La Ceiba to Yaruca road. The facility is Oro Maya. The plantation here is small, however you will love to learn more about the process of how you can elaborate chocolate in Atlantida. This is an industrial facility where high quality chocolate is produced. If you visit during the cacao harvesting season, you will have a chance to see the different processes required to transform a cacao into chocolate. It is a very elaborate process and requires masterful expertise. The process begins by cutting the cacao pods open. Then extracting the seeds and separating the pulp from the seed. This process is strictly by hand! By now, the seeds are ready to be fermented. They are put into wooden bins in a hot shack to promote the fermenting process.
Seeds must be regularly stirred so ensure an even fermenting. The process takes between 4 and 6 days, depending on the local temperature. This process is closely supervised and is equivalent to the importance of a brew master when brewing a whiskey of a beer. The quality of the final product depends on the proper and even fermentation of the cacao seeds. Next is the drying process. This is also done naturally, and can take an average of 25 days, depending on the temperature and humidity in the air. Only then will the cacao seed be ready to be toasted and ground to produce Chocolate in Atlantida!
The chocolate produced by Oro Maya is sold in bars under the name of Honduras Chocolate Factory. It has a high percentage of cacao and a very low percentage of sugar. No milk is added. It has become a favorite product for locals and foreigners as well. If you want to bring back home a nice souvenir, consider buying some chocolate in Atlantida. It is guaranteed to may your folks back home happier people!