You don’t have to be a choco-holic to appreciate one of Costa Rica’s famed cacao tours, which provide a behind-the-scenes look at how this ancient food is grown, harvested and transformed into delightful, organic creations. The country is home to several artisanal producers that will explain the history and techniques for making pure chocolate, with ample opportunities to sample the goods along the way!
History of cacao in ancient civilizations
Mayan and Aztec cultures worshipped the cacao plant for both cultural and commercial reasons. In fact it was so valued that indigenous populations once used cocoa beans as currency! Today, cacao is treasured for its rich flavors and undeniably addictive nature – even in raw form the fruit’s creamy white pulp is a mouthwatering snack. In Costa Rica, cacao production was a booming business until the 1980s, when a fungus nearly wiped out all harvests, significantly reducing the supply. Luckily, rescued cacao plantations in the Northern and Southern Caribbean zones have kept this ancient tradition alive while promoting sustainable tourism in the process.
Popular cacao tours in Costa Rica
Ready to take in the intoxicating aromas, watch the transformation from raw cocoa bean to gourmet tempered chocolate and taste the final product? Consider one of these popular chocolate tours on your next Costa Rica vacation:
- Tirimbina Chocolate Tour – a 2.5 hour excursion that teaches everything about harvesting, fermentation, drying and roasting – unveiling the secrets to this favorite treat.
- The Chocolate Forest Experience in Puerto Viejo, Limon – where guests can “taste tour” the history of chocolate from an Aztec ceremonial drink to European style chocolate bars mixed with locally grown spices and herbs.
- La Iguana Chocolate Farm – For some 30 years, this 100% organic cacao orchard has been maintained by hand, producing a range of delectable fire-roasted products. They also take on volunteers who’d like to help with community service projects and cocoa bean harvesting.
- Finca Kobo (near Puerto Jimenez) – Discover the inner-workings of a totally sustainable cacao farm on this Osa Peninsula retreat, where the owners explain every aspect of processing cacao from raw fruit.
Health benefits of organic chocolate
Dark chocolate is widely considered one of nature’s most powerful super foods. So next time you reach for a piece, you can rest assured you’ll be getting your daily dose of zinc, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Thought to boost the immune system, these nutrients also help stabilize blood sugar levels and elevate the mood, thanks to hefty levels of natural endorphins and tryptophan. In addition, organic chocolate also helps strengthen liver function and promote glowing skin. The key is sticking to natural cacao products, like those produced on Costa Rica’s chocolate farm tours, which are free of added fats, emulsifiers and extra sugar.