How to Make Chocolate, Part 2

The last time we talked about chocolate, we saw how it grows, and how the Bribrí people of Costa Rica ferment and dry the beans in the traditional way. The next step is the roasting of the cocoa beans:

This, according to our host, Priscilla, is done in very small batches — only three kilos at a time. The beans are placed into a pot over open flame and stirred while they roast to make sure that they are evenly heated and none end up burnt. They start out a reddish brown color, but they are dark brown by the time they are finished:

At this point, they smell just like what we are used to — good and chocolatey. Once the beans are cool, they are placed in a burlap sack and crushed with a heavy pole. When poured out of the sack and back into a bowl, the chaffy bits encasing the bean blow away, leaving behind whole and crushed cocoa beans:

The crushed beans are then run through a mill, which removes any remaining chaff and grinds them into a paste:

The paste can be used for cooking as-is, but it can be sweetened and flavored to make chocolate bars as well. It can also be further processed to separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter. To remove the fat, the paste is placed into a pot of water and boiled, all the while being stirred by a Bribrí "blender," which is a long stick with four prongs at the end. Priscilla rolled the stick between her hands to churn the mixture:

Eventually the fatty cocoa butter floats to the top, where it is skimmed and allowed to cool into its solid form:

Cocoa butter is very useful on the skin, and we used some of these bits on our lips and bug bites, which our host said would benefit from the cocoa butter as well. 

Of far greater interest to the children was the mixing of the cocoa paste with a whole slew of other flavorings for different chocolate bars. Our tour ended with a tasting of something like twenty different varieties of chocolate bars, including coconut, nutmeg, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cas (a sour guava), coffee, and vanilla. 

It was really hard to decide which ones to purchase to bring home with us — they were all so delicious! Luckily for us, they offered most flavors in small sampler sizes. Now the hard part will be deciding when to eat them, because we won't exactly be able to replace them when they're gone.

If you ever have the chance to visit the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, do not miss this tour at the Jungles of Talamanca farm. And bring me back some nutmeg chocolate, please.


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