Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chocolate Tour

Right now I have the post-vacation blues. It seems like this especially always happened when I was a kid, the day we came back from the beach seemed like a joyless, rainy, gloomy 4 hours. We were leaving my favorite place in the world and headed back to Lexington, to unpacking, to dreaded swim team practice, and long hot days.Right now, I am really struggling to not feel the same way. Yes, it  is true that I am in Costa Rica and that I am getting ready to go to Nicaragua Wednesday and that I have an all around extremely blessed life with friends and family that I love. But, still after this personal pep talk, I just keep comparing the now with the past 48 hours.

This weekend was everything I could have dreamt of. A month ago, a chocolate tour was just an idea that I was slightly overzealous about but was lucky enough to have friends that seemed almost as excited about the idea. I had seen an article on USA Today about chocolate tours in Costa Rica. I was thrilled that USA Today had already done the dirty work and found out reputable places. So, on my first real weekend off from my study abroad program, the chocolate tour became my top priority. Me and my three friends decided we would stay at the eco-lodge at the Tirimbina Reserve and go on the chocolate tour. It would be a splurge but after a week here we realized that good dark chocolate wasn’t easy to come by in Costa Rica, so we were looking forward to the tour like addicts needing their fix. Needless to say, we came back with dark chocolate burning a hole in our suitcases with elaborate plans for how to make it last the rest of the trip.

Theobroma cacao- the species used for making chocolate; theobroma translates to mean food (broma) of the gods (theo) as derived from the Mayan use of chocolate.

Below are some pictures of the experience (I apologize for the poor quality, it was very overcast and shady so not ideal lighting):


Tirimbina Reserve, the lodge is behind the sign. We had a comfortable (hot water in the shower and a nice quilt on the bed), affordable 4-person room with screen doors.


A cocoa tree in an old plantation that is sustainable and uses sustainable practices like inter-cropping (there are plantains and bananas planted there). This cacao tree is bent over because of age; it can live to be 50 years old.


A cacao pod


An open cacao pod with the seeds exposed; the seeds had a fruity, slightly tart flesh that we sucked off and then spit out the seeds.


A map with the location and general timeline of cacao production and chocolate making


Different stages of cacao production; this box is covered with banana leaves and the bacteria are allowed to grow.


The cacao, fermented and roasted, is ground with brown sugar and cinnamon in a volcanic rock mortar with a river rock.


This was a delicious mixture, it was so different from anything I had ever had. We went back for another handful! One of my favorite things of the tour; this would be dangerous for me to have around.


The whole process of making both chocolate bars and cocoa powder


Liquid chocolate in the stage right before it is poured in molds; I had 5 spoonfuls of this warm, magical chocolate.


The final product, pieces of chocolate in earthy shapes like this leaf.

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