Belize is known for its crystal-clear sea, white beaches, exciting jungle adventure tourism, and Mayan temples. It’s not well known, but Belize is also a coffee producer with a rich, nutty, and chocolate-flavored coffee that will rival the best of them. The jungle canopies of mainland Belize make the perfect protective cover for coffee plants, bringing coffee to stores, exporters, and some local coffee shops around the country. Read more about coffee history in Belize, who’s growing it, and where you can drink the best coffees in Belize.
When I was growing up in Belize, my friend’s parents and my mother drank Nescafe or Guatemalan coffee in the villages. I remember a few chocolate growers who also grow coffee, but chocolate was their focus. There was also Gallon Jug Estate, which is well known for growing their own coffee. I actually didn’t drink coffee until I lived in Livorno, Italy, back in 2017. Livorno is a famous coffee importer in Italy with well-known roasters, so I was inspired to try it, and it was here I started my interest in coffee. When I returned home to Belize in 2023, I was excited to see there were several new coffee producers and even more excited to find some coffee shops using Belizean coffee.
Coffee History in Central America
Coffee production in Central America has a long and interesting history, dating back to the early 1700s when coffee was first introduced to the countries known as the “Bean Belt,” these countries include all the countries from Mexico to Costa Rica and include Caribbean countries like Jamaica, Aruba, Dominican Republic, Cuba and other mountainous Caribbean countries who also produce amazing coffee. Central America has some of the best coffee production in the world; its proximity to the large United States market has supported the continued growth of fruit production for export. The climate encourages coffee growth, making every country the perfect environment for this delicious beverage. Belize is no different, but in Belize’s case, the coffee is denser and more chocolaty than the fruity coffees of Columbia, El Salvador, or Honduras.
Coffee production in Belize has primarily been dominated by small-scale farmers who grew coffee for local use and as a cash crop for export. Early on, coffee was mostly grown in the country’s mountainous areas, particularly in the Cayo District, where the climate and soil were most conducive to its cultivation. However, the industry faced several challenges during this period, including competition from other coffee-producing countries and the devastation wrought by natural disasters such as hurricanes and fruit disease outbreaks. The Belizean government revitalized the coffee industry, establishing the Coffee Industry Board in 1961. The board was tasked with promoting coffee production and improving the quality of Belizean coffee, regulating the industry, and ensuring fair prices for farmers.
In 1983, Bowen and Bowen, the leading beverage distributor and brewery, bought Belize Estate and Produce Company Ltd., then they mapped out the jungle it owned in northwestern Belize, where Mr. Bowen established Gallon Jug Estate. The expedition discovered Santa Maria and the old Mayan settlement. The area near Chan Chich, a creek named after the Mayan word for little bird, was the perfect settlement, inspiring them to create Gallon Jug. Today, Belizean coffee is known for its distinctive flavor and high quality, with many coffee lovers worldwide seeking out beans from this small Central American country. While challenges remain, the future of coffee manufacturing in Belize looks bright, with a new generation of farmers and entrepreneurs working to build a sustainable and thriving coffee industry.
If you haven’t been to Belize, there is a reason you haven’t seen anything about the chocolaty, delicious Belizean coffee. That’s because, for one, there isn’t enough of it, and two, there isn’t anyone exporting much of it. Belize’s main agricultural product is cane sugar, and they export just short of 2 million tons of sugar. The second most significant agricultural product is bananas, which comprise 800,000 tons annually. At the bottom of the list of exports is coffee. In 2021, Belize exported only 90 tons of coffee beans.
There is no need for mocha-flavored coffee when drinking Belizean coffee because the chocolate notes in this coffee are by default. But we also love to add chocolate to coffee, of course. When traveling to Belize, stop by one of these coffee producers or give them a ring to check if they can ship some of their unique beans to you wherever in the world you are. Most of them have coffee you can take home, too.
Where to drink Belizean Coffee
- Gallon Jug The first major coffee producer I know of is Gallon Jug, and they produce organic 100% Arabica beans from the Northwest of Belize. The Bowens started planting coffee beans in Gallon Jug in 1988. Today, they mainly produce hot sauces, but their coffee is commonly found for sale in shops around Belize. Visit their website for more information and book a stay at their lodge for an immersive jungle experience. Many say that their lodge is the best place you can stay in Belize to see tapir, jaguars, and my favorite, coatimundi.
- Lamanai Coffee and ChocolateThe café and shop are owned by two American men, an investor, and an herbalist, who came to Belize attracted to the natural remedies. The herbalist leads herbal tours from their location about twenty minutes south of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway. Don’t worry, there are plenty of signs so you can’t miss them. Their coffee has a light chocolaty flavor with hints of fruit. They have a store and fantastic café with plenty of parking, so make sure to stop by. Their frozen coffee shake with chocolate is amazing. Visit their Facebook page for more information and their address.
- Oxmul Oxmul is a family-run coffee producer from the Cayo District named after the Mayan name for the San Antonio village. James Mesh and his family planted coffee plants on their land outside of San Antonio in 2021. The family produces their coffee at home; they handle the growing, roasting, and selling their very dark roasted beans to visitors seeking a new coffee experience. If you like a dark roast, your mind will be blown. Read more about their story on Breaking Belize News, which shared a fantastic story about Oxmul’s coffee. Visit their Facebook page for more information and their address; I strongly suggest visiting them if you like dark roast because their coffee is the best I’ve had in Belize so far.
- K’oxol’s Coffee, Kakaw and Smoothie Bar This Punta Gorda coffee bar is run by a local woman who is passionate about coffee. She buys from local farmers in Toledo District and hand grinds all the coffee and chocolate she sells in her café.
- Ice ‘N’ Bean in Caye Caulker Located directly on Front Street in Caye Caulker, this coffee shop is run by a couple. They work with coffee farmers in Punta Gorda. Their beachfront coffee shop has lots of iced coffee options for hot Caye Caulker days. They also have food, including doughnuts and bagels. Make sure to grab a loyalty card to add up your beverages for a free drink if you’re staying around for a while. They also have a store inside the coffee shop where you can buy different varieties of roasts, either as beans or already ground.
Much of the coffee sold in Belize is Guatemalan coffee roasted in Belize and sold in coffee shops around the country. The main reason for this is that Belizean coffee is expensive. Due to the scarcity of the coffee, the slow-growing of organic fruit bushes under trees until peak ripeness and then handpicked beans all make the process of Belizean coffee costly. There is no low-cost labor Belize can call upon for more significant coffee production, making much of the coffee for minimal export or sale at local coffee shops.
There may be more coffee shops selling Belizean coffee, but these are the ones we know of in 2023. If you know of others, please message me on Instagram, and I’ll make sure to add them. I don’t get to go home often, but when I do, I love to try everything new that’s opened. My mother still lives in Belize, so if you have any questions or need help, let me know on Instagram, and she can find out for you. Subscribe for more travel inspirations. Have a lovely day.