La Palma, Costa Rica – The twins agreed to go on a farm tour because they called it a “chocolate tour.” We learned all about where chocolate comes from, from cacao trees to candy, start to finish.
Finca Köbö is an organic farm surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest on the Osa Peninsula. They grow many things besides cacao trees there. In fact, the first half of the tour was good, solid propaganda, espousing small-scale, organic, artisanal food production, and also highlighting some of the more unusual produce on the farm.
Then – FINALLY! – we moved on to the reason we all came: to find out where chocolate comes from.
But the first part of the tour was not irrelevant. Chocolate was a huge export from Costa Rica in the 19th and 20th centuries, until a fungus wiped out 80% of the country’s cacao trees. Nowadays, a new breed of cacao tree is resistant to fungus, but the diversity of crops is also important for the health and survival of the farms.
Believe it or not, the pulp of the cacao fruit is often discarded (although it can be used for juice). It is the seeds that are the source of the rich chocolatey goodness. They go through a process of fermentation, drying, and roasting to draw out the flavor. And finally, the shells are removed and the pure chocolate nibs are ground into cocoa butter.
From here, it can be tempered, sweetened or “conched” (smoothed and aerated) to create the products we know and love. In our case, it was melted down for chocolate fondue, but we also purchased a few bags of chocolate “nibs” to take home and sprinkle on ice cream or yogurt.
And yes, both boys agreed that the best part of the tour was the degustation at the end.