Belize coffee is cultivated organically under the rainforest canopy at the Gullon Jug Estate on the high plateaus of western Belize. The estate is 130,000 acres in all including cattle, corn, orchards, wild game and a tourist resort.
The fertile soils and subtropical, temperate climate provide ideal conditions for growing fine Arabica coffee. The forests of the region were once covered with the prized mahogany trees that were felled to panel the walls of aristocrats in England.
Today the forests of Belize provide shade for Arabica coffee plants, which allows the coffee trees to mature slower, delivering more nutrients to the coffee beans and developing more robust flavors.
Belize Coffee Facts
The country of Belize was formerly known as the British Honduras and is the northernmost nation of Central America and has the lowest population density.
Belize is not a large producer of coffee beans, with a relatively immature agricultural wholesale export market. Not much green coffee is imported by brokers in North America, which leads to difficulty ordering and buying roasted coffee beans from coffee roasters.
Characteristics of Belize Coffee
Belize coffee reviews indicate it has a full body and a sophisticated cup of brewed gourmet coffee. No herbicides, pesticides or fungicides are used – they can be considered “organically grown” but wouldn’t be Organic certified.
The coffee cherry are hand-picked at peak ripeness and then wet processed. After being sun-dried, the coffee beans are roasted and vacuum packed by distributors in oxygen-free containers to preserve the freshness of the Belize coffee.
Though Belize does not in fact benefit from the readily available low-cost labor and high elevation of its Central American neighbors – e.g., Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico – it nevertheless is able to produce premium Belize coffee beans (according to tasting notes) that are gaining an increasing respect in the specialty coffee market. The future should be bright for the burgeoning industry.
Also see: World’s Best Coffee
Coffee Farm Development in Belize
Numerous other coffee growing operations have been taking hold in Belize including experimental coffee farms and small plantings at visitor lodges to provide guests with home-grown gourmet Belize coffee.
A 50-acre farm in Gullon Jug in the country’s Orange Walk District is developing a finca mostly using a coffee plant varietal that originally came from Costa Rica and grows exceptionally well at low altitudes. These plants are cultivated beneath jungle shade in natural areas that have been thinned to accommodate the coffee plants.
The coffee beans are roasted using a twelve-kilogram Probat roasting machine producing a Dark Roast and Medium Roast that is marketed in Belize grocery stores under the Gallon Jug brand. The coffee offers a mild body with a relatively low acidity and a pleasant taste.
Cacao & Chocolate in Belize
Sharing a border with Mexico means access to top tier cacao and chocolate processing talent and other companies. The climate, altitude, rainfall and soils make it an ideal growing location for cacao – and has been grown and consumed locally for centuries by the Mayas and other tribes.
The Belize Cacao Consortium an organization attempting to streamline investment in cacao production in Belize in connection with RE/MAX, and purportedly investing in the lives and well-being of the local farmers.
Belize and Other Caribbean Coffees
Belize coffee is symbolic of a wider trend of small Caribbean coffee producers beginning to plant coffee to piggyback on their already burgeoning tourist industry.
Also favoring the Belize coffee, is the emphasis on ecologically friendly coffee to meet the growing demand for socially and environmentally responsible coffee beans.