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Sacred Cacao

IMG_1130 Close your eyes. Take a deep breath.  As you exhale, picture yourself in the midst of a lush rainforest, surrounded by a canopy of rich emerald leaves. Inhale the aroma of the earth at your feet. Let the sound of the breeze tickle your eardrum. Invite your taste buds to delight in anticipation of fresh, mouth-watering chocolate, straight from the source.  

Now open your eyes and absorb the haze of the golden sun. Extend your hand and pluck a ripe bean from a hanging limb. Today, you won’t just taste rich chocolate made from the native cacao bean, you’ll make it yourself.

The cacao bean has been a staple of native Costa Rican culture for centuries. Once used as currency by Indigenous tribes, the industry of growing and harvesting cacao was an essential pillar of society prior to the introduction of coffee in the late 1700s. In 1979, a strain of fungus destroyed most cacao plantations in Costa Rica, reducing production by nearly 95 percent.

Several of the remaining Costa Rican Indigenous tribes like the Bribri in the Talamanca region and the Boruca in Terraba, venerate the cacao bean. The communities still incorporate cacao seeds, chocolate, and fruit into all facets of their life, including medicine, cuisine, and holy rituals.

IMG_1143In recent years, Costa Rica has seen a large increase in the growth and production of cacao and organic chocolate. When visiting an Indigenous community, you’ll have the opportunity to prepare cacao in the traditional fashion. As you trace your fingers over the tree stems to pick the sacred cacao beans from the trees, then roast them over an open flame, you’ll exchange stories with members of the community. After crushing the heated beans with a large stone boulder, the aroma of rich, warm chocolate begins to take shape and a delectable chocolate paste comes to life.

During your visit, you’ll also have the opportunity to taste other typical dishes, and learn how to make traditional masks and other crafts. Interested in a Costa Rica experience that includes a visit or overnight stay in one of Costa Rica’s Indigenous communities? Check out our Costa Rica itineraries or contact us to begin planning your trip.