Maya Mountain Cacao is a new company that seeks to connect Belizean cacao farmers with specialty chocolate buyers in the United States and elsewhere, in order to bring in better prices for the excellent cacao the farmers in this region produce. Their Cacao House--basically the chocolate equivalent of a washing station in the coffee world--is a pretty amazing place to tour.
Samuel, who among other roles is in charge of tracking the tasting notes for each batch, walked us through the process by which freshly-harvested cacao is fermented, dried, screened, and taste-tested. These wooden boxes are fermentation tanks, where over the course of about five days the sugars in the pulp that surrounds the cacao beans ferment (what else?), helping to develop the nuances of flavor that make specialty cacao so exceptional.