The Chocolate Life

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Hi All,

I want to take my chocoatiering full circle by visiting a cocoa farm. I am wondering if anyone has recommendations.  Not necessarily interested in the Kallari tours in Ecuador.  I'd like to visit Costa Rica, Peru or another safe place. I don't speak Spanish at this time, so am hoping there would be some English speaking individuals.  Also, when is the best time of year to go to be part of or present at harvest, fermentation, drying etc.?  I'm sure I'm missing questions, but wanted to get this out there. ~Thanks!

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Hi Lisa,

For Costa Rica, October through early December is the best time to come: harvest, fermenting, drying all happen in these months. Actually the cacao here is produced year round, but these months represent the main harvest and it's by far the best time to come. I don't know offhand of any tour companies offering specific chocolate tours, but I do know of several farms and co-ops which either offer tours, or would be happy to show someone around. We are based on the Caribbean side so the following suggestions are for the eastern part of the country. Rainforest Alliance farm, 'La Amistad'; Catie, a research and educational facility developing new strains of cacao, based in Turrialba; Caribeans, a local organic chocolate producer with a small demonstration farm; Sibu Chocolate, a production company which works with organic / Rainforest Alliance farms; Chocoart, a farm and production company making minimally processed bars; there are several local indigenous families making chocolate and cacao butter from their own cacao. And us, Finca la Isla, a permaculture farm just starting to produce our own bars on-site.
Happy to share more if you message me(?),
Ancel

Thank you Ancel.  Please email me privately at lilchocolates@gmail.com

If you are interested in smaller farms that may be a bit "closer to home" you might consider Hawaii.  There are a number of folks we can introduce you to if you want to visit and see the process (then visit the beach..:)  Contact me directly if you need any contacts. 

Dan

In Costa Rica the height of the rainy season is October to December. I'm not aware of any harvesting or drying of anything during this time of year. Most Tico's just hunker down during those months and hope they don't get washed away.

Thank you Steve! When would you suggest going to Costa Rica?  Any particular recommendations for where to go?

Hi Lisa,
To be certain some areas of Costa Rica are less rainy than others but on the whole June through December is considered to be the rainy season. The worst months being October and November. There is a small area along the Carribean Coast south of Limoń and the Guanacaste Region in the northwest where very little rainfall ever really occurs. In fact water shortages are common in the Guanacaste region. This link is helpful but is representative of averages http://costa-rica-guide.com/Weather/WeatherMap.html . It's really a matter of money. It will cost you the most from December through May during the dry season and half as much during the green season (rainy) June to November.

Within the area of Costa Rica where most cacao is grown (the province of Limon) the driest month of the year, statistically, is September.  There are two "dry" seasons which are centered on September and March and the wetter seasons are in December and July.  This better distribution of rainfall favors cacao growing, as opposed to the areas that get so much rainfall during the September/October months but have a six month dry season that is a bit dry for cacao production. While there are different peaks of harvest the principal harvest is in October/November and this also corresponds to the harvest season for a plethora of fruits in the zone of Limon.  Cacao has been grown traditionally in Limon since pre-colombian times and was first planted by europeans in Matina, Limon around 1650.  We proudly continue to grow the heirloom Matina cacao.

Thank you for the information! I love heirloom varieties of almost anything as I grow heirloom vegetables on my farm.  Would love to plan a visit at the best time for harvest, processing etc.   ~Lisa

Hi Steven,

Actually there is much to harvest and dry September through early December: cacao, durian, mangosteen, rambutan, pulusan, columbian sapote, duku, langsat, santol, various garcinias, cupuasu and pataste among others! Oh yes, and that's when the vanilla is ready too. Where it's wet during these months is the Pacific coast and the Central Valley; neither of which are major cacao areas (too high in the Central Valley). September through early December is dry on the Caribbean coast and in the Northern Zone: where the bulk of the cacao is grown. I'm not sure where you are in Costa Rica, but perhaps you should pay us a visit in October and dry out :)

Hi Peter,

I should have been more specific before about the rainy season. I was speaking in general but I'm familiar with the weather on your coast. I lived in Zarcero up in the mountains of north central zone. The canton of Alfa Ruiz near Palmeria. Then I lived in Quepos for a couple of years. Both areas get most of the rain in Oct and Nov. Lots and Lots of rain. I'll have to come over to Puerto Viejo and check out your operation sometime.
Hi Steven,
I only know the Zarcero area from passing through but I have worked in the Quepos area.
While the Central Pacific of CR seems to be trending to heavier rainfall Limon could be trending to drier weather. We have been recording rainfall here for more than 15 years and this last year has been the driest at a mere 120", down from an average of 160" at our farm. Logically, this trend seems to be helping the cacao growers battle the dreaded monilia. So far, so good. 120" is still enough!
Saludos,
Peter

If you come to Costa Rica, I can help you. Please contact me at fincaxocolata@gmail.com
Tao from Samaritan Xocolata, Perez Zeledon, CR.

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