Central America Chocolate Tour – Part 1
By Bernhard Mueller, Master Chocolatier at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts
Do you follow us on Facebook? If so, you probably would have noticed the posts about my chocolate adventure to Central America; Costa Rica to be specific.
Well, I’m back, and I’m ready to share my new-found chocolate knowledge with you wonderful ChocoTalk blog readers!
I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Thursday. It was 25 degrees C and breezy. I had a lovely visit with my brother Gerhard who travels to Costa Rica often. He showed me the sights of San Jose including the markets and local chocolate shops.
I must say I was most impressed with all the food and not just the chocolate. Fresh fruit, veggies and eggs the colour of sunshine…Wow! I could get used to that. I loved walking the farmers market. I wanted to buy everything! I was most interested in a fruit called soursop. The locals claim this fruit has cancer curing properties. I am not sure if this is true, but I really did enjoy its sour yet subtly sweet flavour…a must try for anyone planning on visiting this region.
After my brief visit with my brother I headed out on a long venture to the other side of Costa Rica on the Carribean Coast just north of the Panama border. I was told I must rent a 4×4 in order to successfully arrive where I was headed and wow were they right! I arrived at approximately 2:30 in Puerto Viejo at my beautiful destination the Mango Walk cacao farm.
The beautiful sounds of exotic birds greeted me as I walked the path to start my chocolate tour with the chocolate maker from Caribeans, Paul Johnson. This is Paul on the right. He is originally from Minnesota and moved to Costa Rica 12 years ago where he learned the art of chocolate making from bean to bar. I can’t wait to tell you more about this guy…. But that will come soon.
As part of my introduction to the Caribeans chocolate farm we enjoyed a chocolate tasting experience perched on top of a hill overlooking the jungle canopy with the Caribbean coast off in the distance. This view was by far one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in my life! The sounds of jungle birds, howler monkeys and crashing waves contributed the overall experience.
It was here in the tasting lounge I felt my chocolate journey truly began. I paired delicious single plantation chocolate with spices like cayenne pepper, rosemary, mint, garlic, anise, sea salt and more. The chocolate was dark, bold and had fruit undertones. My personal favourite was the cayenne pepper with sea salt combination.
After my tasting experience, I checked into my cabin. I felt like I was entering the movie Jurassic Park! My cabin was nestled in the jungle forest….It was beautiful. All that beauty did come at a cost though…… because when you stay in the jungle, you get the jungle! I am not going to lie, I was glad there was a cage around my cabin most nights. Enjoy these pictures of my cabin and the critters that lived with me for 7 days.
Well that’s all for now. My cup of Costa Rica coffee and delicious dark chocolate awaits.
In my next blog I will tell you all about the bean to bar experience. Please stay tuned for more chocolate adventures.
You can meet the Chocolatier face-to-face at our Tasting Day on Saturday April 9thth from 2pm to 4pm. Bernhard will be offering free samples of Costa Rican bean-to-bar chocolate. Come by 3530 Mainway in Burlington to try it! Taste the difference quality makes!