Chocolate Lovers Unite: A Look Into Fairchild’s International Chocolate Festival

Kate Markus, Life Editor

On Jan. 15 and Jan. 16, the annual weekend-long chocolate festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens featured various chocolate endeavors, cooking classes and demonstrations. 

Florida International University alumna Mabel De Beunza chief operating officer at Fairchild helped to organize the event and ensure everything ran smoothly.

“My favorite part about the Chocolate Festival is seeing our visitors enjoy the beauty of the Garden along with their delicious chocolate finds. Our goal in hosting events like the Chocolate Fest is to introduce the botanical science in all that we do,” De Beunza said.  “Cacao is made in an understory tree that grows in tropical rainforests. So, we’re able to talk about the importance of having an ecological understanding about these important, delicate and often delicious but threatened habitats.”

Community events like the chocolate festival at Fairchild help bring neighborhoods and families together in an effort to connect and bond.

“I think events like the chocolate festival, NightGarden, Orchid Fest, etc., are a hub for the community to gather and discover the wonder of plants that can only happen at Fairchild,” de Beunza said.

Along with the personal connections made, de Beunza also feels events like these unite the community and the surrounding nature.

“I think what I like most is the connection that guests instantly make with the Garden. Plants and people are inextricably linked, and understanding the connection creates an awareness that makes us all better stewards of the plant world,” de Beunza said.

The main aspect of the Fairchild chocolate festival is, of course, the chocolate. Almost every aspect of the event features the sweet in some respect — one can even buy a chocolate orchid or a cacao plant to take home. The food vendors also incorporated chocolate in their menus.

The event is held at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, a nonprofit organization that features an 83-acre botanic garden with extensive collections of rare tropical plants including palms, cycads, flowering trees and vines. Aside from the chocolate festival, Fairchild hosts a variety of other events throughout the year, including yearly mango and orchid festivals, art exhibitions, concerts and plant sales.

Fairchild has held the chocolate festival for 15 years, making it an annual event people look forward to. Even last year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the function went on as planned, albeit with several precautions in place. This year, Fairchild held the festival with  county-wide COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“We follow all CDC and Miami-Dade County recommendations and guidelines, including face masks indoors, social distancing, hand sanitizing, proper hygiene, etc.,” de Beunza said.