November 12, 2014
La Fortuna, Costa Rica – Chocolate Tour
Our first organized tour of the trip was, appropriately enough, the Rainforest Chocolate Tour! How else would you expect us to start a world tour??
We signed up for it at our hostel (Arenal Backpackers Resort) before having lunch at a “soda” – a local mom-and-pop eatery. It was our first time finally getting some local Tican food (Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos). Rice, chicken, veggies and beans – tasty! Then we walked a mile or two to the “Chocolate Factory”. That’s how it was described at the hostel, but it’s not a factory at all. Rather, it’s a family owned chocolate farm (i.e. – place growing cacao trees) that is doing tours to educate people on the industry, fair trade, and benefits of organic chocolate. I just want to say for the record we are big fans of Theo Chocolate back home in Seattle. It is what we buy most at home and it is both fair trade and organic. Say it with me: “palm oil in my chocolate is bad”.
Anyway, our tour was four couples from the States – glad we were there in the off season as apparenly they have up to 50 folks on each tour during the high times! Our guide, Erika, was a young and chipper chocolate expert. Not really an expert she told me, but she had me fooled. We learned about the history of chocolate — food of the gods. It used to be prepared as a sipping drink for special occasions that were accompanied by human sacrifices. Nice, eh? We learned it takes 3 years for a cacao tree to product the fruit. FRUIT! Chocolate is a FRUIT! The whole trip was worth it to find out that little nugget.
We got to smash open a cocoa fruit….Aaron smashed that baby open, and then we passed it around and everyone got to take out a seed pod and eat the flesh off if it. It is SO good…sweet-sour-tangy. Kind of slimey, but when you are finished, you want more of that fruit. Then the seeds are fermented, dried, roasted, cracked open and little chocolatey nibs come out. Bitter, but definately chocolate. Just grind it up, add some sugar, vanilla, maybe some cinnamon and you’re good to go! We drank a traditional drinking chocolate and then they melted some of it and let us eat this chocolate lava off of our spoons. Like the consistency of brownie batter, but just pure, delicous, magnificent chocolate. MMMMM. Luckily we were not the only ones who got seconds, thirds, maybe fourths…fifths, Aaron?
After the tour was over, we got chatting. Aaron talked to the farm’s owner, Carlos. He was incredibly smart and just full of information including giving us ideas for continuing on our trip in CR. I chatted with a couple from California who is toying with the idea of selling everything and expatting to somewhere new. Ahh, kindred spirits. Hi to Jennifer and Alan if you’re reading this and thanks for the ride back to town!
With that another spectacular day in Costa Rica came to a sweet end.