La Iguana Chocolate-mm. mm. GOOD!

Trip Start Aug 03, 2011
Trip End Mar 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
La Iguana Chocolate
What I did
Harvest Chocolate

Flag of Costa Rica  , San José,
Saturday, August 13, 2011

where do i set deep in the hills of Costa Rica and takes QUITE the commitment to get there. hour ride from San Jose to the little. but busy town. of Puriscal to find yourself on a JUICED up school bus for another two hour ride winding through hillsides and potholes until you arrive in Mastatal which is home to all of 150 ticos. tico is synonym for a Costa Rican local. it must be said early on that it is ABSOLUTELY BE. U. T. EE. FULL there! every morning we woke to the crowing of our rooster buddy. what i really mean to say is NOT our rooster buddy. brush teeth over looking sun kissed hills. quick breakfast of rice and beans with a side of platanos to hit the daily chores. how did we even find this place you ask? on trusty craigslist under the volunteer section. Let me back up for a second...

La Iguana Chocolate is a family owned farm and we decided it was going to be our second volunteer project which is how we ended up in the middle of no where and loving every minute of it. as soon as we arrived it felt as if we were visiting a family friend. open kitchen. family dinner. bedroom style living. ELECTRICITY. cold showers, grr. we weren't really shown the ropes but rather expected to jump in the mix. we arrived right at dinner time and were shuffled into the kitchen. with a family who speaks ONLY SPANISH meal times and trying to understand directions for our chores is VERY INTERESTING. there is a lot of 'no say', 'despacio por favor'. and charades. HA!

being that they are in the chocolate business the obvious is that there is a PLENTIFUL amount of CHOCOLATE at our disposal. brownies. chocolate chip cookies. tubs of different. delicious. little. chocolate goodness. peanut, coconut, pistachio, orange, chili, coffee, pineapple, vanilla....yes, please!

daily chores consist of assiting with the chocolate harvesting process, gardening and cooking. we worked for five hours a day. AND EAT chocolate the other seven, ha. we know how Augustus Gloop felt. we were in HEAVEN. there are several steps to the chocolate process...we were lucky enough to help with each one.

Steps to chocolate heaven:
1. harvest the cacao (ka-cow): imagine gloves. bandana. rubber boots. machetti. can you say badass?! we cross a river by horseback. hike by foot for a few miles to find the crop tucked into the hillside. given a machetti and a burlap sack. VAMOS! ducking as we treasure hunt our way through packed lines of trees for a healthy yellow cacao. when you find one, whether it be at head level OR IF you need to climb up the tree to get it, a whack of the machetti and into the burlap sack it goes. on to the next.
2. separating the beans from cacao: whack of the machetti. to find a gooey, white mess inside which are the beans. if you suck on one of the beans the white goo is like a sweet yogurt.
3. bean fermenting: beans are placed into a wooden box with two halves to ferment. every morning they are turned from one half to the other. SUPER stinky and attracts devil ants.
4. drying the beans: beans are placed into giant tarps and are moved daily from under cover out into the open to sunbathe.
5. roasting the beans: once the beans are nice and dry they are cooked over a fire until they are nice and brown.
6. deshelling the beans: after roasting the beans they need to be removed from their outer shell.
7. grinding the beans: they need to be ground into soft chocolate powder. Scotty's muscles were a BIG help for this step.
8. La Iguana Chocolates: take the chocolate and mix it with pure sugar through a grinder. pick a flavor syrup, say orange, heat it up with melted butter and add it to the cocoa sugar mix. pinch 16 gram balls off to be placed into molds. place the molded chocolates onto a tray and pop into the fridge to cool for 15 minutes. taste test. and WHA-LA. chocolate goodness is complete.

La Iguana sells their chocolates in town as well as to those who come by the farm for a tour. In addition to chocolate they sell cocoa powder, body butter and candles all made from the chocolate they harvest. the process is fascinating. the family is wonderful. and i would reccommend the experience to any chocolate lover. for more information about La Iguana Chocolate, visit their website by clicking here or email us with any questions.

we spent nine days in Mastatal and although our time was consumed with chocolate we managed to find ways to get a little wild too, they don't call us the big cat and sturgio for nothing. Mastatal has a shack for a bar and on Saturday nights it is POPPIN. Scotty picked up a few dance moves from the ticos which he is DYING TO SHARE when he gets back. we tried Mastatal moonshine which they ferment from the cacao beans, tastes like hard cider and goes down too smooth.

AND we were invited to the BIG BINGO night in town. 60 ticos showed, that's a good third of the town. old. young. dogs. cats. we played 12 rounds or so and what was i doing you ask? i was WINNING. i hit BINGO THREE. ROUNDS. i've never been so lucky. won myself a cow dish cloth, rose colored drinking glasses and a cow butter dish. little nerve racking to yell out BINGO in a room packed with locals when you're second guessing your spanish numero knowledge. eek. luckily i had them correct.

goodbye chocolate, stuffed a few in bag to come with us, SURE DID! we are headed to the Pacific coast to warm our bones and get sun burnt. yeah mom, i said it. BURNT!

Fun Facts:
-Lydia, mother of the farm, couldn't remember Scott's name and called him usted grande. no one thought it was more funny than she did.
-Scott has a size thirteen foot. when trying to find him rubber boots they finally found a size FIFTEEN in the bottom of the barrel. Juan, father of the farm, thought this was hilarious and continued to point and laugh whenever Scott had them on.
-every day around 1PM the storm rolled in and usually lasted through the night. we are talking serious thunder and lightning. super rain drops not to be messed with. catch one and you're soaked.
-milking a cow is no joke and SUPER hard.
-Scott wants a pair of rubber boots when he gets back to the states. done!
-i listened to the NSYNC CD while writing this. BOOM!
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Stefanie W on

Lyns, this is so amazing! What you are doing, experiencing and sharing! THANK YOU SO MUCH! YOU MAKE ME LAUGH SO HARD! Sound strange but, I am so proud of you! Proud you took a step many of us dont! Keep updating us! Love it! Be Safe!

Donna G. on

Lynnsey - you ROCK! This is so amazing! Thanks for keeping us posted. YOU GO, GIRL!!

mom on

Lynns you are a great writer feel like i am there with you. Great pictures when you are my age and you have all those wrinkles from being BURNT we will look at this again as it will be worth it I'm sure love mom

Tammy Benedict on

Lynnsey - once again you manage to make me hunger for the beauty this world has to offer! Thank you for sharing your journey - I am enjoying it so much - well, except maybe that spider that is as big as my dog.

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