Learning how to Make Chocolate-Oh Yeah! (spoiler, it’s pretty bitter!) La Fortuna, Costa Rica-Day 4

We woke up this morning to an overcast sky and slight drizzle. We were blessed to see a group of yellow-billed toucans in the trees outside of our room, and Aly was so excited to see them in the wild! So far, we had been spoiled with nice weather, and this was more of what we had expected for this season in Costa Rica, but not enough to keep us from exploring.

Today, we decided to check out Don Olivo’s Chocolate Farm Tour. The Rainforest Chocolate Tour is another popular one for this area, but I liked the reviews for Don Olivo’s, in that it seemed to be a little more “down home.” And that is exactly what we found. The tour was run by one of Don Olivo’s sons (I think), and takes place at their home. They have many different varieties of fruit trees on their property, and they talk about all the different fruits as well as provide samples of each fruit. And the samples are quite plentiful. As in, we probably didn’t need to eat breakfast! We had pineapple, banana, oranges, starfruit, papaya, and some strange green fruit that they sprinkled salt on and tasted like a weird pickle juice. We tried a fresh peppercorn off the plant-spicy! We saw an orchid that smelled of honey, and learned the vanilla plant is the only orchid that fruits.

We then got to help press sugar cane–Aly jumped right in–and then drank the fresh juice which was delish! We also got to try some homemade coconut rum, which would have been even better mixed with the sugarcane juice.

Then it was time to walk through the Cacao Forest. Our tour guide told us they grow a specific variety, called Cacao Criollo, which accounts for only 3% of the world’s chocolate. The trees continuously produce fruit, so unfortunately I’m not sure it would survive Colorado winters! Aly helped him find a ripe cacao which they picked together, and he cracked it open on the tree so we could try the fruit inside. The fruit actually had a sweet/tart taste to it and was quite good. So good, in fact, that Aly carried half of the cacao around for the rest of tour so she could enjoy the rest 🙂 To enjoy, you just swirled the cacao bean around in your mouth to suck off the fleshy part, and then we spit out the bean.

We then learned how they ferment, dry, and roast the beans, before removing the shells and grinding it down. Aly got to help grind the cacao as well, and then we all tasted the roasted cacao. At this stage, the chocolate was rather bitter! They had some of the ground chocolate mixed with homemade vanilla and sugar cane, which we all decided was more to our liking–like a dark chocolate truffle. Lastly, they made some hot chocolate with steamed milk and the ground cacao, to which we could add vanilla, sugar, and a ground corn/cinnamon blend and the combination made a wonderful, not too sweet, mug of cocoa.

We spent a few hours at the hot springs on our last full day in La Fortuna, and went into town to go to dinner a Tierra Mia. Wow, did this little restaurant deliver! (Here is where I would typically link the site, but the place is so small that they don’t have a website. Just trust me, it’s delish.) We are not vegetarian, but they do have a rather extensive vegetarian menu. We ended up ordering the chicken soup (Aly), the steak with chimichurri sauce (sauce was yummy!), and the tropical chicken, which was definitely the favorite for all of us. We finished it up with crepes with fruit and ice cream. This spot was definitely a food highlight of the trip.

The rain started picking up, and all night, as Aly would say, it was “raining buckets!” I guess that’s why there are so many green plants around here. . . Nice way to drift off to sleep.

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