Monday, November 24, 2014

Pura Vida = Costa Rican Chocolate

This excellent photo by DK
For today's adventure, I thought I'd take you all away from the cold and back to Costa Rica. I promise this is actually relevant to the season and not just pure escapism. (But would your really mind even if it was pure escapism?)

Our trip is relevant for two reasons. First, it's Thanksgiving week, which means everyone is making goodies for the Feast. And this post is all about chocolate. You know you are thinking about chocolate. Aren't all the best goodies made of chocolate? Then again, there is pie..

But I digress...

The second reason Costa Rica is relevant is Black Friday. You know you need to buy something cool for your sister or mother or cousin. Why not buy them some really great chocolate? That makes pretty much everyone happy...unless they are lactose intolerant, and then, not so much. But I suppose you can't please everyone. Alas.

In any case, think of this post as my little gift guide for Black Friday. It's so nice of me really. You can sleep in, avoid the crowds, shop online in your PJ's and know you are buying a killer gift for your friends and family while supporting small business. Think of the endorphins!

Alright, that's enough commercial. Let's get back to our post, shall we?

Hmm, where were we? Costa Rica...chocolate...oh yes!  Today I wanted to bring you all with me to make chocolate. From Cacao. Seriously. I took a class while I was there.

Come on! It's about to start!

The first thing you have to do is find Playa Flamingo on the map. That's this beach: 

Next, you email or call Henrik Bodholdt, the charming Dutchman who runs the Beach Chocolate Factory who lives in this  area. Can you blame him? He lives about 6 minutes away from this view. 

He teaches a weekly chocolate making workshop on Friday mornings at 10am.
That's where we are headed.

Here we are in his back yard. Isn't that giant ceiba tree something? 

All chocolate starts with cacao and this is the start to Henrik's own grove!
He planted these seeds last January and look how big they already are.

Here's a cacao pod. See the gooey white stuff? That's the fruit. Believe it or not, it tastes
kind of like passion fruit, super fruity and sweet-tart. I loved it!

What we think of as chocolate is actually the seeds of the fruit, fermented, roasted, and ground. Here they are after being roasted. They kinda look like huge, dull coffee beans. At this point you have to shell them. Well, you are really just peeling off a papery coating. 

And when you are done, they look like this:

See how shiny they are? And they are starting to smell like chocolate at this point. 

But speaking of smelling like chocolate, you gotta be there when they grind those puppies. Heaven! I have been to the Hershey Spa numerous times, where they have chocolate baths and serve fresh hot chocolate in the waiting rooms...That is nothing to this smell. 

Imagine having your entire body enshrouded by a cloud of the rich smell of
dark chocolate brownies baking...

That kinda gets you there, but not really. This is that much better. The stuff of dreams.

See all that slimy chocolaty goodness? That is chocolate liquor. They must call it that because you get drunk on the smell. (Ask Henrik why. He is a walking chocolate encyclopedia. Seriously. The man knows all things chocolate. even DK was impressed and that's saying something.) Chocolate liquor is the base of all chocolate anything. At least it should be, if it's worth two shakes and bears the name "chocolate."

This is the stuff that makes you so happy. Here in a bowl, just waiting to be mixed and eaten.

Even though I LOVE dark chocolate, I chose to add a bit of powdered milk and some organic, unprocessed sugar, to make it taste less bitter. Chocolate alone is a bit too potent for even me.

In the way of all the best days of childhood, you mix your concoction up with your bare hands.

They look like this when you are done:

And you have a nice ball of chocolate to add the finishing ingredients to. I think we broke ours in half and added different things to each part. DK added chili powder to one part and almonds to the other. I added coconut to one of mine and macadamia nuts to the other.

And everything was delicious. "Want to drown in it" delicious.

And that's just my chocolate. You should taste Henrik's. He actually knows what he's doing and has the patience and equipment to grind his beans for days.

Yes folks. the best chocolate has been ground for days.

That smell, for days. I'd never go anywhere. I'd waste away, just smelling.
Because it doesn't taste good yet.

Keep in mind that Henrik is making chocolate that competes with the quality of the French, Belgian, and Swiss. His beans are all organic and he knows the farmers he buys from. I was impressed with all his stuff, but true to my dark chocolate preferences, my favorites were Tenorio (70% cacao with cacao nib chunks, which I don't see in the shop) and Celeste (70% cacao). But I would tell you to get the gift box, if you don't know what you want. It has 1 square each of white chocolate with cacao nibs, milk chocolate with almonds, and pure dark chocolate.

So if you plan on going to the North West coast of Costa Rica, shoot Henrik a message or give him a call. You can click here or on the photo to go right to his "Contact Me" page.

The workshop was totally worth the very reasonable $25 he charges.The roads near his place were clean and paved, which can be a novelty in Costa Rica, depending on where you stay. And Henrik is so much fun to talk to. He is super knowledgeable about all things chocolate and a bunch of other stuff.  Ask him about staying with the Native Indian tribe that grows some of the best chocolate in the world. That is a story worth hearing about. 

If you are stuck in the cold with me this Holiday season, take heart, as Henrik's online shop, Chocolate Craft, ships anywhere in the world. I should have bought a lot more of his chocolate than I did. My stash is already gone. So I will be ordering some more to make my holidays bright. You might go in with a fellow chocolate lover, as international shipping adds a bit.

Just click on the picture above to go to Henrik's shop.

If you are going to a different region in Costa Rica, there are other chocolate tours. I discovered Henrik by reading trip adviser after seeing this blog post on the "A Cruising Couple" blog via a Pinterest search for "chocolate tours Costa Rica.

Well that's it for today.

Unless you guys have some fantastic chocolate fantasy you want to tell me.
I'm all ears for that sort of thing. But keep in mind, this is a public venue.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

1 comment:

  1. Totally makes me want to go to Costa Rica - very interesting!