Costa Rica Travel News – Once you’ve tasted chocolate in Costa Rica, you’ll be forever spoiled; Costa Rica’s cacao is quite possibly more exciting than its coffee, and much harder to come by. Though cacao has roots in Costa Rica tracing back to pre-Colombian times (when it was cultivated and cherished as the food of the gods), it’s taken a back seat to coffee, which became Costa Rica’s major export decades ago.
Chocolate tourism is just beginning to blossom, and the cacao trail is still one less traveled, yet ever growing. Sustainable cacao farms are emerging, abandoned cacao plantations are being revived, and cacao is being celebrated along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Far from the country’s well-traveled tourist outposts, most of Costa Rica’s cacao farms are just off the beaten track. Along the rugged narrow stretch from Limon to Manzanillo,sandy, volcanic soil and year-round tropical climate are conditions favored by cacao trees.
Discover the real thing with these ten distinctive and delicious ways to taste chocolate where cacao grows, in Costa Rica.
1. Book a Chocolate Dream Vacation, a week-long immersion in all things Caribbean cacao. It starts with selecting the fruit that you’ll use to make your own custom “profile” in the micro-batch chocolate factory. By day four you’ll be conching – a three part process done on a Swiss machine invented in 1979 that redistributes the fat and reduces certain acids, affecting the flavor and thickness of the finished chocolate, giving it smoothness, snap, and subtle notes of flavor so coveted and craved by chocolate enthusiasts. At the end of the week you’ll have become a true chocolatier, having crafted a small batch of gourmet bars of your very own creation to take home. Get to know Puerto Viejo de Limon and relax along its beautiful black and white sand beaches in between chocolate making sessions.
2. Chocolate and wine go oh-so-well together during The Chocolate Forest Experience, especially at sunset while overlooking Cocles beach from atop the cacao forest. If you miss the tour, stop in at the Chocolate Tasting Lounge on the main road and sample the Orange Forest: 72% dark chocolate infused with orange, anise and clove.
3. Get a chocolate foot massage with organic cacao at Pure Jungle Spa because your feet deserve pampering, too.
4. Take a tour of a sustainable cacao farm in Shiroles, where the women of ACOMUITA produce their Tsirushka chocolate the old-fashioned, eco-friendly way, while preserving an important aspect of BriBri culture, whose chocolate making traditions date back to Pre-Colombian times.
6. Take a swig of some Choco Beer by the Bri Bri Brewmasters, who say it’s the natural spring water that makes their cacao infused beer taste extra-special. Try it at Kaya’s Place on the north side of the bridge into Puerto Viejo de Limon.
7. Chocorart is the name of a Swiss family’s cacao farm and chocolate product, a wax paper wrapped stick of a treat that tastes just sweet enough and comes in a range of flavors. A tour of the farm is a fun adventure for the whole family. It includes a hike through the forest in which cacao grows among complementary trees like almond and guava that help give this chocolate a mildly nutty flavor.
8. Enjoy a cup of “the best hot chocolate in the world” at the Chocolateria, a sweet roadside cafe where it’s made to order on the stove top with the family farm’s cacao.
9. Take Cafe Britt’s coffee lover’s tour, which includes a stroll through the lush plantation and forest in Heredia in which coffee and cacao grow alongside other tropical fruit trees, and a free sampling of Britt’s rich chocolates can be found in the gift shop.
10. Pick up a snack-sized bag of organic sun roasted raw cacao nibs from Talamanca Cacao at the Diamante market for 1,500 colones (roughly $3). Peel the “skin” off and take a bite for a buzz similar to coffee and smoother than rum, thanks to raw cacao’s magical theobromine. There may be numerous medicinal benefits to eating raw cacao but its bitter taste makes it hard to swallow for some. Thankfully, a single nib goes a long way.
Sophia LaMonica, 10Best.com (A division of USA TODAY)