This trip has been eye opening. Unlike the coffee program, the chocolate program explores almost, what seems to be, all of Costa Rica. We have seen poverty, wealth, business, commercial districts, markets, and Americanized niches. Costa Rica is a diverse country in its development and its biodiversity.
We have experienced varying cacao farms within Costa Rica, and have learned something new in every situation. The small scale farms attribute the most to the production of cacao. It taught us about how important and complex the cacao crop actually is. This crop is so sensitive to heat, production, aromas, and roasting and it all starts in the harvesting process. We tried the best hot coco we have ever had and samples the sweet taste of the cacao outer slime. The cacao plant is so fragile and every step matters. The large scale farm opened up the concept of fermentation and the heat that this process gives off. Large scale farms only make up 5% of the market, but produce some of the most delicious beans. These are the beans that we used for our own chocolate production in our lab during the trip.
Not only are we learning about cacao plants, but the landscape of Costa Rica. Zip lining showed us how much of a “cloud forest” these rich mountains are. We zipped over the ranges and saw the lush green that seems to envelope the country. Sloths, toucans, monkey, and insects made an appearance in the naturalist walk tour. Fauna in Costa Rica attributes a major part of the cacao production and the ecological efficiency of the country.
Overall, the trip is so inspiring and important for my college development. It is one thing to learn about a crop in a classroom, but a whole other experience to work hands-on through the country learning about its importance to not only the community but the american country. Without chocolate, where would we be today?