I’ve always hated the mozzys (mosquitoes). I just felt like they were always up to no good, looking to suck my blood and spread diseases.
But really, they’re just innocent little creatures, trying to live their lives just like the rest of us.
Just kidding. I still hate those little suckers. If I see one trying to make a meal out of me, best believe that little sucker is going to die!
But I did learn something new about mosquitoes while I was in Costa Rica. I learned that without them, there would be no chocolate. Yes, it’s true. Those little suckers are responsible for the little slice of heaven we call chocolate. They are the ones who pollinate the fruit where cacao beans come from and without them there would be no cacao bean babies! I learned this during the Cacao Trails Chocolate Tour, where my friend and I learned about the origins of chocolate, tasted chocolate in its different states, and got eaten alive by the mozzys despite our mozzy spray. (Word of advice: I tried to go with this deet-free, herbal mosquito repellant and let me tell you, the mosquitoes in Costa Rica are persistent as hell. They WILL still eat you. Just go for the Deet, man. It may poison you but at least it’ll poison them too!)
I didn’t know this and I guess I never really thought about where chocolate comes from, but apparently it comes from this fruit.
The fruit itself tasted good but it’s the seed that is the actual cacao bean. They take the raw cacao beans and dry it in the sun for 6 days. To keep track of which cacao beans have been in the sun, they use this container with 6 separate compartments. After the cacao bean has been in the sun for 1 day, they move it up to the next compartment.
After 6 days, the cacao beans are then roasted in the sun for another 2 weeks.
Seems highly inefficient, doesn’t it? And it’s also very dependent on the weather. Like, what if it rains? What would become of those cacao beans? Would they just be…thrown out?
THE HORROR! Say it ain’t so!
I don’t recall if they do end up throwing the cacao beans out since I probably blocked out such blasphemy, but I do recall our tour guide discussing this very thing and pointing to these machines as a more efficient and non-nature dependent way of roasting cacao beans.
The result? Deliciousness.
There was then a demonstration of how chocolate is made from these roasted cacao beans. The recipe they used was a European one since the traditional Costa Rican recipe has no milk or sugar. Personally, I think I would’ve preferred that as I actually don’t care too much for sweet things. No complaints here though because it was fun to watch and even more fun to eat!
First, we ground up the roasted cacao beans.
Then, on a wooden stove, we slowly melted the ground cacao beans. You would think that it would smell like chocolate goodness but alas, the prevailing scent was smoke.
After melting the ground cacao beans, a mixture of natural sugar, vanilla extract, powdered milk, condensed milk, and water was added to the melted chocolate.
We each grabbed a ball of mixture and pounded it in our hands. A natural oil oozed out of it which we learned is the cacao oil from the cacao beans. It’s supposedly good for your skin and serves as a natural mosquito repellent. My friend and I quickly put the oil on our mozzy eaten legs.
Then on to the best part – the tasting! It was really delicious, although a little too sweet for my taste. The chocolate lady suggested we wrap it around a roasted cacao bean and that was just divine!
And she even packed some up for us to take home!
This was by far our favorite chocolate place, although it was by no means our only chocolate stop. We also went to Caribeans in Puerto Viejo and had their sipping chocolate, which was my favorite hot chocolate on the trip.
It’s a bit hard to see here, but in the right side of this photo, there was a chocolate tasting room.
Naturally, I ended up buying some goodies from there.
We also went to Chocorart, where we ended up getting ice cream…that wasn’t chocolate. I did want to try chocolate ice cream, since that is my favorite type of ice cream but my friend had a good point. We could have chocolate any time (but not Costa Rican chocolate, I argued!) but not these fruit called Mora and Araza. One might say, why didn’t you just get chocolate ice cream and your friend could’ve gotten the other type? Alas, I am horribly lactose intolerant and even with the lactase pills, I cannot have a serving of ice cream to myself. So experimental fruit it was!
She was right though. Not only was it delicious, but we really couldn’t have had that anywhere else. Well, maybe we could have, but certainly not in LA and most definitely not in Binghamton.
And there you have it, folks. Mozzys, the bringer of diseases and irritable moods, are also the bringer of chocolate. Next up, sloths, which I still don’t think are cute but my friend has an extreme obsession with.