Chocolate – Breakfast of Champions

Chocolate Tour 10

Kim is deep in concentration trying to retain everything. They are hoping to start their own chocolate production soon!

Yes, there seems to be a pattern here. I seem to post multiple posts on either tacos al pastor or chocolate. Can you blame me? We found ourselves on a chocolate tour in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Seeing the process from start to finish was nothing like I expected. Hell, I didn’t even know chocolate grew on trees. Seriously.

It was time to be educated on one of the things I hold dearest to my heart – chocolate.

We found ourselves starting the tour at about 8am – before loads of people started lining up for the personal tour. At $25 a pop I was glad to get a more personal explanation of the process… oh, and all you can eat chocolate.

So these are what the plants look like on the tree. The flowers all over the bark turn into the cocoa fruits. If you’re lucky you can avoid fungi that destroys trees and the fruit turns brown.

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This is the inside of the fruit. You have to beat it against a wall or a tree pretty damn hard to open it. The fruit inside is slimy, sweet, tangy and tart. The “seed” is what is made into chocolate. I carried one around with me for about an hour as I destroyed the contents. Best. Fruit. Ever.

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Good fruit vs. Bad fruit

This is Shaun, Kim and Barry (Destination CR) listening to our awesome guide discussing the various plants found naturally in the rainforest.

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The fruit is removed from the shell and fermented for 6 days to get rid of the fruit on the outside and take away some bitterness (and the juice is used for a local rum).

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The seeds are then dried in the sun for an additional 6 days.

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The beans are then roasted in a wok looking thing over a fire.

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They are manually ground (and it is a pain in the ass) and reroasted a wee bit. You can boil it again to remove some cocoa oil/butter and this allows the chocolate to be melted. They didn’t boil it during the tour but I had no clue that is how they did it!

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They give it another quick roast for good measure.

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For milk chocolate they add equal parts (to chocolate) dehydrated milk and sugar and to add a bit of sweetness a shot or two of condensed milk.

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ChocolateTour-15It is all mixed together until it is well blended. They rolled it out for us and we took pieces of this rawer form of chocolate. It was like fudge it was so rich. I ate two pieces. Shaun, Barry and Kim ate my share and some. 😛

At least if I was stranded on a desert island with a whole bunch of cocoa trees I will know how to keep myself fed and happy.

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70 Responses to “Chocolate – Breakfast of Champions”

  1. Sarah Wu November 7, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    Love the photo essay that guide you through the process. I didn’t know it grow on the tree until I went on a tour in Dominican Republic too. Isn’t it so amazing you always learn new things when you travel? 🙂

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

      @Sarah: Its funny when we just accept chocolate as chocolate and don’t really think about where it comes from. 😛

  2. Amy November 7, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    That is so interesting. I never knew that is what chocolate looks like in its unprocessed form. Does that mean I can use the excuse that I’m eating my vegies when I dig in to a block of chocolate? 🙂

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

      @Amy: YES. I would at least. You’re getting your fruits and veggies portion of your diet.

  3. Phil November 7, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Awesome post. I’m very interested in chocolate production. I really want to see an indigenous chocolate industry start in Cote d’Ivoire. Right now, they produce about 40% of the world’s cocoa, but it’s all for export and no actual chocolate is produced there. Someone needs to get on that. Just need some start-up money 😉 I need to go on a tour like this. Your photos are a good substitute for now, though 🙂

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

      @Phil: Thank you! I bet you anything that some of the companies in Costa Rica buy some of their beans. I know that they can’t keep up with demand and do it sometimes. Good luck with that endeavor. It is an easy process but the investment time is a few years.

  4. Iiv November 7, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    Wow Erica I could really do with some chocolate after reading this! I LOVE chocolate – mostly eating it, but reading about it is good too ;o)

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      @Liv: NOM NOM NOM – it was really good but oh man I could only eat a bit. Shaun, Barry and Kim were going to TOWN!

  5. Emily in Chile November 7, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    So interesting! I had no idea that the pods were so large or that there was fruit in them…I just thought it was the seeds. I feel like I’m going to have new-found respect for chocolate now that I know how much work goes into the whole process.

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      @Emily: I was honestly just happy with the fruit but OH MAN, knowing I was getting chocolate AND caffeine from it was awesome. I loved the tour – learning things like this is fascinating. It probably started with my obsession with Mr. Rogers and seeing how things were made to be honest.

  6. vitra November 7, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Hi–I agree with the previous comments and think your images really tell the story and help us visualize! Thanks for sharing. Will look out for the taco 101 too 🙂 haha.

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      @Vitra: Thanks! If you ever need info on tacos… let me know. I’m a professional. 😛

  7. Kim November 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Your images turned out great! We are roasting our new batch of cacao today. We also changed our site due to your pay-worthy advice!
    You are welcome back anytime.

    Kim Y Barry

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      @Kim: YAY! I’m so stoked for you guys! Let me know how the first batch comes out! Are you doing anything adventurous with it?

  8. NLM November 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Interesting post–love learning something new. Thanks!

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      @NLM: Life is all about learning!

  9. Heather November 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    I love the photos in this post! As a fellow chocoholic, I’d go on this tour in a heartbeat. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      @Heather: Of course! I know you like my more journalistic stuffs – was actually thinking about ya when I was putting it together. 😉

  10. Patricia GW November 8, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Chocolate and rum from the same plant? What a winner! Excellent photos of the entire process, I’m excited to get the opportunity to try this myself in the future 🙂

    • Erica November 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      @Patricia: YES. Perfect plant.

  11. Audrey November 8, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Looks like quite the process to arrive at that chocolatey goodness! Mmm, now I’m craving some chocolate!! 😀

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      @Audrey: It makes me feel obligated to eat more!

  12. Dani | Globetrottergirls November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I can’t believe we didn’t take this tour while we in Costa Rica – I am such a choco-holic, it would’ve been paradise for me 😉 Beautiful photos!

    • Victor November 10, 2011 at 8:32 am #

      The Chocolate Paradise is in Belgium 🙂

      • Erica November 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

        @Victor: I’m sure! Belgian chocolate is one of my FAVS.

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      @Dani: Maybe next time? ♥

  13. Heather November 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I have to agree with Patricia, Chocolate & Rum from the same plant?!? SCORE! Sounds like a great tour, I’d love to go on a chocolate tour while I’m there! Great post!

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 11:49 am #

      @Heather: Thanks bunches! At least you know what to look for if you’re ever on e desert island?! 😛

  14. Spencer November 9, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    Chocolate for Breakfast! Now that’s something I can get used to.

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 11:50 am #

      @Spencer: Always. Although, it does sit quite hard on the stomach lol.

  15. Alouise November 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    This sounds like the best breakfast ever.

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      @Alouise: It REALLY doesn’t get any better than this.

  16. Laura November 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    I went on a spice tour in Zanzibar and we also got to see how cacao is grown and where chocolate comes from. Yum!

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

      @Laura: Yummy spice tour! I can’t wait for that!

  17. Nomadic Samuel November 12, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Fantastic photos!

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      @Samuel: Means a lot coming from you. 😛

  18. Victor November 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Mmm… yummy 🙂 but so long preparation.

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      @Victor: And worth every moment!

  19. Ayngelina November 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Damn! I skipped through Costa Rica and totally missed this!

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

      @Ayngelina: You can always come back! 😉

  20. Stephanie - The Travel Chica November 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    You can never write too many posts about chocolate!

    I didn’t do a tour like this when I went through Central America, so this is really interesting to see.

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      @Stephanie: We shall see. I have a mini choc post coming out next week. 😛

  21. dtravelsround November 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    While I was reading this, I did a quick survey in my mind of what chocolate products I have in my house. I am now craving chocolate and have realized there is none to be found. Thanks. xx

    • Erica November 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      @D: SORRY! Go to the corner store and get a Snickers!

  22. Claire November 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Chocolate is always good for breakfast! Love the pictures, great post!

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      @Claire: Chocolate is probably good most of the day. 😛

  23. Raymond @ Man On The Lam November 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    That looks like a lot of work for a Kit Kat. 🙂

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      @Raymond: SERIOUSLY. And Kit Kat? There is way better chocolate than THAT!

  24. caz Makepeace November 16, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    Gotta go to the shop and buy some chocolates. Great photos. Love experiences like this

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

      @Caz: Sorry lady! I’m sure baby needs some chocolate anyway. ♥ I’m loving educational tours.

  25. Emily November 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Yummmm!!! I wish I had done a tour like this when I was in Costa Rica. I never knew the process for making chocolate either, so this was really cool for me–I love the step-by-step photos! The fruit looks nothing like chocolate, so whoever originally came up with that process is pretty genius.

    • Erica November 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

      @Emily: I seriously wonder who decided that the seeds needed to be used for chocolate. Seriously. Never would have thought.

  26. Juno November 18, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    mmmm…..!!!!! Excellent post girl! 🙂

  27. Hogga November 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    I’m not lying when I say I don’t care much for chocolate, but this was really interesting. PS. Photography is looking more impressive all the time!

    • Erica November 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      @Hogga: Thank you! Traveling inspires me to push my boundaries on my photography. <3

  28. Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com November 22, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Chocolate counts as a fruit – awesome!!!

    • Erica November 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      @Jade: Isn’t that neat? I feel better about eating it already.

  29. A Lady in London November 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Wow, I never knew that about chocolate! Thanks for sharing!

    • Erica November 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      @Lady: The more you know! *

  30. Tobias November 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    omnomnomnomnomnomnom!
    Thanks for giving me a cocoa lesson. Now i need to go get me some chocolate… 😛

    • Erica November 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      @Tobias: Yeah, apparently this post has that effect on people! LOL!

  31. Sarajevo February 8, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    This only makes me love chocolate even more 🙂

    • Erica February 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

      @Sarajevo: Same here! Isn’t is fascinating!?

  32. Alison March 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Fascinating post, I didn’t realise this was what went into making chocolate and that the fruit was so big!

    • Erica March 15, 2012 at 9:40 am #

      @Alison: I was so happy we took this tour. I’m all about educational things like this where it blows my mind to think that I am eating a fruit! 😀

  33. Jess of Sunshine Umbrella Travel August 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Amazing post; love the pictures.

    But… My heart sank when I saw that you did this in Puerto Viejo– I was just there and had no idea this existed. Had I read your post before my trip, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat. On the flip side, I can just add this chocolate tour to the long list of excuses to go back asap! 🙂

    • Erica August 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      AWWW! The only reason I knew it was there was because our friends Kim and Barry drove us out there after hearing about it. It was probably my favorite of the two chocolate tours we took.

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