La Iguana Chocolate Farm in Costa Rica is beautiful! It really is in the middle of no where and hard to find due to no one giving real accurate directions. “Just further down that road” they say. “How much longer?” we ask. “Oh 15 minutos més o menos” they answer.
Thirty minutes later we ask again, “How much longer?” They answer, “Oh just 2 kilometers I think.” 12 kilometers later we ask again….and so it goes. So we trusted that somewhere an hour down this long dirt bumpy road that there was a chocolate farm.
Turned out, there was!
La Iguana Chocolate is a family owned and run farm that has been producing organic cocoa for almost 30 years. It is in the village of Mastatal, Costa Rica. It is higher up so it seems much cooler up there. Yet still it is in Costa Rica. The main product they produce is cocoa powder. You can watch and join in with the different stage of cocoa production.
This is what I remember from the tour, do not quote me for fact though…
- It all starts with a little seed and a little insect that helps pollinate the flower. Then the pod beings to grow.
- When a cocao pod survives weather, dogs, infestations, possible fungus, other animals, insects etc. you can use it for its seeds. You can tell it is ripe on the inside when it is very juicy. You can suck on the seeds, they are very sweet. But if you bite into them it is a very bad flavor.
- After removing the seeds you let them ferment for awhile. Then dry out in the shaded sun, then direct sun, and then store them in plastic bags. The seed is done when all the purple is gone inside, the more cafe the color, the better.
- Then it is time to roast them. It is like roasting cranberries, when they start to POP you know you are done.
- When they cool you crack them out of their shells. It is hard to do! I was trying to be as soft as I could but I would crack the seed into crumbles. This was the girls favorite part. Actually they really enjoyed the tour, it entertained them quite a bit.
- Then you grind them. After that you press them to get out the cocoa butter. They use this butter in body products and other food products.
- To make their small chocolate they combine it with DULCHE and grind again. After adding in a little bit of their homemade cocoa powder, flavoring (orange from the trees on their farm to chilies from their farm) and some cocoa butter they are able to get it a little moist. So they then can press it into molds.
They do make a chocolate where they melt the chocolate and then poor it into molds. After it sets in the fridge that chocolate is very smooth but melts very easily. But what they mostly make and sell they say is cocoa. So I believe that they grind the beans once or twice more to make it into a very fine powder.
The family was very accommodating and great to listen to. He only spoke Spanish–I wonder what they do when non Spanish speakers come to do a tour. They made us freshly baked cookies from the chocolate when we were there.
Also had us try chocolate milk. They made these brownies with bananas and their chocolate that were fun to try.
It was fun to taste, smell, see, and participate in every step of chocolate making. I put together a little video of us joining in:
But listen I have to tell you something…
While I was there I felt so deliriously happy inside. Even after when all the kids were poking me and screaming and fidgety on the way home. All I could think about was chocolate.
Ahhhh chocolate and I. It is a problem. But I think it can be solved by living on a chocolate farm. I am going to try to talk Tyler into this.
How did it taste you ask?
Why delicious of course! It tasted like real pure chocolate. You can tell there isn’t tons of sugar, vegetable oil, or vanilla in this. My kids are pretty used to different chocolate tastes, so they enjoyed it. We did eat so much we were starting to feel sick. But if I had just ate a regular amount it would have felt good. The chocolate doesn’t leave you with a yucky sick feeling after you eat it.
Written by Vanessa Brown: In November 2012 Vanessa, her husband Tyler sold most of what they owned in Utah, U.S., and moved to the Playa Hermosa area near Jaco, Costa Rica with their four small children for a six month sabbatical.
In her articles Vanessa writes about their family’s traveling experiences, what it is like living abroad with four young girls (all under age 7), arts & crafts and finding beauty in everyday life living in Costa Rica.
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