Do you ever wonder where your food comes from? I do all the time, and one of the things I’ve loved about our RTW trip is that it has given me the opportunity to see firsthand the places where my food comes from. From the idyllic vineyards in Bordeaux, France; to the rolling, lush tea plantations in Munnar, India; to the small Colombian coffee farms, visiting places like these makes you more connected to and knowledgeable about the food or beverage’s origin.
Although we tasted a ton of chocolate in Ecuador and learned about the chocolate-making process in Peru, we didn’t have the opportunity to see a working cacao farm. So when we had the chance to visit a cacao farm in Costa Rica during our stay at Blue Osa, I couldn’t wait (Read our Blue Osa review here).
Finca Kobo: A Sustainable Cacao Farm
Within the first few minutes of our tour at Finca Kobo, I was happy to learn that they are an environmentally responsible company. Unlike other farms that clear rainforest and grow cacao in the sun using tons of pesticides, Finca Kobo is committed to preserving the rainforest by growing their cacao organically and in the shade of other trees. In fact, 60% of their farm is primary forest, secondary forest, and regeneration areas (areas that used to be farm land before they bought the land but are now being allowed to return to their natural state).
Before touring the coffee portion of the farm, we got to see all the fruit trees and other plants that are planted for a variety of environmental benefits. Have you ever tasted starfruit freshly picked from the tree? No? Then take this tour! Other fruits we tasted included unique kinds of bananas, citrus fruits, and fresh coconuts that were unlike anything we’ve ever had before.
Turning Fruit into Chocolate
After crossing through some forested areas, we arrived in the cacao growing area. We admired the four different kinds of cacao that they grow and the different colored pods, and then we got to try the cacao fruit. This white, pulpy fruit is inside the pod and surrounds the cacao bean. The fruit was sweet but tangy and sort of reminded me of soursop or chirimoya.
So how is this juicy, pulpy fruit turned into chocolate? The pieces of fruit are separated from the pod and allowed to ferment for several days. After fermentation they already look much closer to chocolate, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The cacao beans are laid out on racks to dry for several days or weeks depending on the weather conditions. Next the beans are roasted in an oven for 20 minutes or more at about 120C.
After the skins are separated from the beans, the final step is to grind them. This produces what’s known as cocoa liquor, which looks almost like a liquid and contains both cocoa solids and liquids. When the cocoa liquor cools it solidifies and is basically unsweetened chocolate, like the kind you would buy for baking. Although other farms typically sell the cacao after drying and before processing it further, Finca Kobo only sells the cocoa liquor. They only sell it locally to places like spas (for treatments involving chocolate wraps) and restaurants.
The Freshest Chocolate Fondue Ever
Our final stop on the tour was the one we’d all been looking forward to the most: the tasting! We got to taste their chocolate fondue, which is just the cocoa liquor melted with some water and sugar. For dipping we had a variety of fruits and some homemade brownies. The chocolate was rich, dark, and delicious! Luckily they sell cute little heart-shaped packages of cocoa liquor so you can make your own fondue at home which are now one souvenir I cannot wait to use after our trip is over.
Finca Kobo is located on the Osa Peninsula just 15 minutes outside of Puerto Jimenez. We visited the cacao farm as a day trip from the resort at which we were staying, Blue Osa, but you could also rent a car or get a taxi from Puerto Jimenez. If you go, make sure to wear long sleeves and long pants or bring a giant bottle of bug spray as well as shoes you do not mind getting muddy.