I obviously can’t go on a study abroad about chocolate and not talk about chocolate! The purpose of our trip was to learn about the science, history and culture of chocolate. We visited multiple different types of cacao farms, chocolate production factories, we lectured on every part of the process of turning a cacao bean into a bar of chocolate, and even made our own chocolate!

This trip was certainly a very unique experience to me. I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to fly to Costa Rica and learn about chocolate for two whole weeks? I expected coming in that I would taste a lot of chocolate, but I didn’t realize how much I would be tasting it along all the stages it goes through while becoming chocolate. We tasted cacao fruit straight off the tree (surprisingly, the mucilage that surrounds the beans is actually sweet and tart, like an apple!), we tried 100% cacao (yes, it is bitter), we had cocoa nibs, cocoa liqueur, and yes, lots of chocolate. Along with trying all these different variations, we learned a lot about the differences between cacao, cocoa, and chocolate, and when it changes from being called one or the other. We also learned about the countries that are the main exporters and main consumers of cacao and chocolate, where chocolate originated from, and its history and impact throughout time. It was really neat to really get to learn all about chocolate from an economic, scientific, historical, and cultural perspective. Our group was made up of 13 students with 13 different majors, and there was something for every single one of us to learn about and take interest in on this trip.

Studying abroad is a decision that I am so glad I made. I got to learn about a new subject while learning first-hand about a new country and culture. Getting to learn about chocolate production in the middle of the rainforest is something I will never forget. If you ever get the chance to study chocolate in another country, take it!

Grinding our cacao beans
Winnowing our cacao nibs and shells
Hand tempering chocolate
Conching our own cocoa liqueur
Cacao in the pod and the mucilage surrounding the beans.