Most people appreciate the deliciousness of chocolate, but most are entirely unaware of where it comes from or how it becomes so delicious.
Native to the Americas, the cocoa tree is believed to have first been discovered in the Amazon region of northern South America. The cocoa bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest. Cocoa trees grow in hot, rainy tropical areas within 20° of latitude from the equator. This makes Costa Rica an ideal zone for cacao. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed that cacao beans had magical, or even divine, properties and used them in sacred rituals, as a medicinal cure, and for holiday celebrations.
The Process of Cacao
Inside of a cacao bean
But more fun than reading about cocoa production is to see firsthand how it can be harvested and turned into mouthwatering chocolate products. In Monteverde, Costa Rica, there are several chocolate and coffee plantations that offer chocolate tours where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about this delicious fruit. You can learn how to roast cocoa beans, make cocoa nibs, and prepare chocolate. The tours offered in Monteverde, where the Global Volunteers service program is, give a comprehensive overview of the life cycle of cacao plants and the production of chocolate. You can learn about the curative effects of cocoa butter. And, of course, you can do a chocolate tasting.
Tasting liquid chocolate!
These tours are about two hours and can be combined with the coffee plantation tours and sugar cane tours. Afterwards, you can wander the shops to buy delicious organic chocolate products, including cocoa butter for the skin.