The above link is a really interesting article in one of our online English newspapers. Chocolate comes from the cacao tree which will only grow 20 ° north or south of the equator and in the correct amount of humidity. Central America and particularly Costa Rica are perfect for that. West Africa has been good for cocoa, but global warming, higher temperatures and the desertification of West Africa along with some plant diseases there may someday, possibly by 2050, eliminate all cocoa farming in West Africa. They are experimenting with hybrid plants there says this month’s National Geographic magazine, but already people are saying the resulting chocolate is not as good.
Cacao is grown all over Costa Rica as small family farm businesses and by some of the indigenous peoples as I described in my recent visit to the Bribri Watsi village and earlier from my visit to Bribri Yorkin as we watched their children suck the sweet white stuff from around the cacao beans and we tried it ourselves.
If you ever visit Costa Rica there are many chocolate tours you can take to learn the complicated process for making one of the world’s favorite sweets.
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz
One of the most intriguing things learned from this indigenous people was about the process of chocolate, in a similar way as with my visit to the Bribri Yorkin village 3 years ago.
In brief, the cacao seed grow as more than a dozen inside a fruit shown in the slideshow. The seeds are surrounded by a white jelly-like substance that you can suck off the seed and it is very sweet! The seeds are not! The seeds are removed from the fruit and allowed to ferment for 5 days during which time all the white substance goes away (not shown in slides). Then the dark brown seeds/beans are spread out in the sunshine to dry out for 22 days (not shown in the slides.) The seeds are then roasted (shown here in pan on wood fire). Then they are ground up into tiny pieces (shown here with old-fashion stone grinder by hand). Then they are winnowed or the shells are separated from the seed meat by tossing in the air (shown here by woman). Then without the shells they are ground some more until they turn to a creamy paste (shown here with a hand grinder though can be done with the same stone grinder).
Aaron then took half bananas sliced lengthwise and spread with the chocolate paste and we ate the little banana-chocolate sandwiches (not shown here, sorry). Then the woman had boiled some water into which she put some of the chocolate paste, a little cinnamon and some brown sugar. She stirred it well and gave us each a coconut shell cup of hot chocolate (see photo of one in my hand). It had no milk, so tasted a little different that the hot chocolate Americans are used to, but was good, if a little stronger chocolate taste than usual. The slideshow includes many of the above activities. After all this I don’t understand why chocolate is not more expensive than it is! 🙂 It is a labor intensive process! And reminds me of coffee production here.
We need to return to learning about the land by being on the land, or better, by being in the thick of it. That is the best way we can stay in touch with the fates of its creatures, its indigenous cultures, its earthbound wisdom. That is the best way we can be in touch with ourselves.
Many more photos from today to share tomorrow after I visit an indigenous people reserve village. Staying busy and loving it! Omar Cook, my guide today is pictured here and he was fabulous! I’ll share more scenery and animal photos tomorrow. I’m exhausted now! A lot of walking!
I’m making too many photos to keep up with while here, but when I get home I will continue sharing. This less popular and less visited tourist area of Costa Rica is still one of my favorites! Simple and natural!
If you count the unofficial paths and trails there are possibly 5 miles of walking/hiking ways within the Xandari property. And I think I have walked over every portion except a little section that dead ends along the river. Around the villas and through the gardens is paved while through the farm and to the waterfalls is dirt paths, sometimes muddy this time of year! I came back to my room with muddy shoes every day! Just a sampling of trails and I did not include some grass-covered paths. Trails are a great way to immerse yourself in nature!
Back in November 2016 I did a similar post on seldom seen spots of a garden and wrote: “In the forest or my garden, one must look through tiny windowsto see behind the leaves.” Again I share what I see in my garden, plain & simple yet full of fantasy!