Last updated on June 6th, 2019 at 08:03 pm EST
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THIS COSTA RICA CHOCOLATE TOUR BLEW MY MIND
The fact that for years I have enjoyed consuming chocolate as much as I have loathed its astonishing sugar content proves that I have always had a love-hate relationship with the treat. It also confirms that for a long time I knew very little about the product, since I assumed chocolate was naturally sweet. Fortunately for me, Ricky and I had an opportunity to participate in the Costa Rica chocolate tour, and it blew my mind. Fortunately for my pancreas, I learned that chocolate and sugar are separate entities, and that it is possible to consume the former without routinely poisoning myself with unhealthy dosages of the latter. To learn how the Costa Rica chocolate tour restored my faith in chocolate and how you too can select the delectable dessert without any regret, continue reading below.
HAVE SOME FREE TIME IN THE SAN JOSE / ALAJUELA REGION AND AN INTEREST IN CHOCOLATE?
The last time Ricky and I had some time to spare in the Alajuela region of the country (an approximate twenty-minute drive from San Jose), we met up with Alejandro, owner of the Costa Rica chocolate tour. As an internationally-trained chef, Alejandro is the ideal person to invite you into the world of chocolate–not only is he a knowledgeable resource, but he emanates passion for the delicacy, especially through his use of language. His tour doesn’t just teach others about chocolate, it “indulges the senses”, and participation isn’t merely eye-opening, it is a “full gastronomical immersion”. If you’re looking to meet someone who loves producing and talking about chocolate as much as you love eating it, Alejandro awaits.
As we questioned in our related blog post Monteverde Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate, And Sugar Cane Tour: A Trifecta Of Costa Rica Tradition, Temptation, And Trade, “who knew that chocolate begins as a slimy seed encased in a white, sweet, and fibrous coating, tucked away in a yellow, bumpy, gourd-resembling fruit referred to as a pod?”. If you have no idea where chocolate comes from and how it is produced, there is plenty of knowledge to gain from experiencing a chocolate tour in Costa Rica. If you wish to take the level of learning to a higher degree–to explore chocolate’s indigenous roots, to understand how various types of chocolate are formed, and to make your own chocolate creation–consider participating in Alajuela’s Costa Rica chocolate tour. As an activity that is not long in duration, requires very little walking, is suitable for children, and is conducted in English (or Spanish, if requested), it is a great way to kick off or round-up a vacation in Costa Rica that starts or ends at the San Jose (SJO) airport.
COSTA RICA CHOCOLATE TOUR: CHOCOLATE FROM THE PLANT TO THE PLATE
Shockingly, in its original state, chocolate is brilliantly purple. Yes, the team at the Costa Rica chocolate tour explain why this is the case as they detail the product’s developmental cycle from the plant to our plates. Through interesting commentary, hands on experience, and taste testing, the tour begins with the exploration of cacao as a bean and a “nib”.
Without offering too many facts or details that would spoil the educational tour experience, the highlight of the Costa Rica chocolate tour was learning that “nibs” are pure cacao, or in other words, chocolate without any sugar added (thank you, faith-restoring “nibs”, for the opportunity you create for guilt-free chocolate binges). This conclusion also involved learning about the differences between “cacao”, “chocolate”, “pure chocolate”, “white chocolate”, “dark chocolate”, “cocoa powder”, and “cocoa butter”, as well as understanding how various chocolate percentages are calculated (i.e., how a 70% chocolate bar differs from a 90% chocolate bar). Jeffrey, one of the Costa Rica chocolate tour’s guides, was sensational and blunt; through visual displays he taught us how various forms of chocolate are obtained, and how much sugar (and little “pure” chocolate) is in each. Both practical and practically life-changing, his teachings exposed chocolate for what it truly is and highlighted a number of lies within the food industry. Furthermore, he helped us understand which forms of chocolate are good for our bodies given their antioxidant properties, which forms of chocolate are primarily comprised of sugar, and which forms of chocolate aren’t even chocolate at all (we’re looking at you, “white chocolate”).
COSTA RICA CHOCOLATE TOUR: BECOMING CHOCOLATE CHEFS AND CONNOISSEURS
As Costa Rica’s newest chocolate experts, we were challenged to become chefs and connoisseurs. Jeffrey presented each tour participant with a chocolate mould and allowed us to draft our own concoction using melted chocolate (produced onsite) and the add-ins of our choosing from a selection of sprinkles, pepper flakes, nuts, fruits, and coconut. We were also given an opportunity to drink the liquid that cacao seeds soak in prior to undergoing the fermentation process. Complete with pulp, the watery drink is “chocolate water” in the purest form.
As we waited for our homemade treats to cool, the tour shifted its focus from the current use of chocolate in modern society to the product’s historical roots. Jessica, another Costa Rica chocolate tour guide, detailed how Spain, a variety of Caribbean countries, and various regions of Costa Rica played different roles throughout. She also demonstrated how cacao was processed and consumed many years ago, which included optional taste testing.
DESPITE THE YUMMY TREAT, THE COSTA RICA CHOCOLATE TOUR’S BEST SOUVENIR IS AN INVALUABLE PERSPECTIVE TOWARD CHOCOLATE
Nearly ninety minutes after we started the tour, we finished with the indulgence of our chocolaty creation and shopped for other homemade chocolate bars available to purchase onsite. We also thanked Alejandro, Jeffrey, and Jessica for opening our eyes to the world of cacao; specifically, for teaching us how to recognize purity in chocolate and how not to be fooled by a variety of marketing tactics. Surely, we will never purchase or consume chocolate mindlessly again. For that, our bodies thank you. 🙂
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you participated in the Costa Rica chocolate tour? Will you too never view chocolate the same way again?
If you’re more of a visual learner, take a moment to view our gallery photos below from our most recent visit to the Costa Rica chocolate tour.