Day 11 – A Chocolate Lover’s Dream

Today we visited a gourmet chocolate company called Sibö and got to taste some exquisite chocolates. Honestly, out of all the tours for this Costa Rica trip, this was the tour that I was most excited for and it fulfilled all my chocolate expectations.

Lots of historic art on the wall

From the rich, humorous chocolate history to the decadent, unique chocolates that we tasted today, it truly was a chocolate lover’s dream. I wish I could’ve bought all the chocolate in the gift shop because everything looked divine. Yes, the pineapple tour yesterday was a sweet paradise that I’m still salty about (I don’t want US fruit again), but chocolate will always be my #1. After a mentally tough week, I needed that serotonin boost.

The assorted chocolates we tasted. My favorites were the caramelized cacao nibs (#1) and the chocolate with sea salt caramel filling (4th one). The most interesting was the 2nd one, which had spice from a chili pepper.

Chocolate is More Complex than You Think

There are so many steps to get to the smooth, creamy chocolate that we eat today. Most people indulge in commercialized chocolate without thinking about how much effort goes into producing the product and how much more quality it used to have.

This is the spiced chocolate drink that the natives used to drink. I actually kind of liked it. Sometimes it’s just better to have the original thing. Everything is so processed and sweet nowadays.

Like back in the day, the natives didn’t eat chocolate. They took cacao beans, grounded them on a hot stone, put it in water with spices and drank it. This drink was for the rich and noble at first because cacao beans are rare, expensive and were viewed as pieces of gold (or money that grew on trees). People even used to buy things with cacao beans because they were such a treasure.

Grinding machine

However, a ground breaking discovery was made when Rudolf Lindt (an inventor of grinders for cacao beans) accidentally left a grinder on with cacao beans for about 72 hours. What happened was that the chocolate liquified and the oils in it evaporated. This is how dark chocolate was discovered. Then of course, later condensed milk was discovered to eventually lead to milk chocolate. But, while chocolate is alluring, it’s a tough industry.

Problems with the Cacao Industry

In fact, cacao beans are so difficult because they only grow in tropical, dry forests and they are extremely expensive. They also need shade which is why agroforestry is necessary.

Another issue in this industry is ethics. Over 70% of cacao is grown in Africa and it’s less expensive because it’s produced under child labor. This is not only unethical and devastating, but it has also caused the quality of chocolate to decrease. Now companies just buy the cacao beans from Africa, make chocolate with a bunch of hydrogenated oils (and other cheap crap) and turn a blind eye.

However, Sibö is unique and ethical in the sense that they only use Costa Rican cacao to provide the best quality and continue the rich history of chocolate. They make sure the cacao growers have stable wage, they take time to educate their workers, and they sell and export to Japan which loves the story and the quality of their chocolate. They also promote agroforestry and use paper from cacao husks for their boxes. The major downside of their company is that it’s small, promoting their chocolate is hard, and ensuring the best quality is expensive.

Lovely quality chocolates.
Look at all those NATURAL ingredients. You know when it’s only a few sentences, the product is legit. If you see a product with paragraphs, get ready to see a doctor.

How are Coffee and Chocolate related?

Coffee and chocolate are related in the sense that they are complimentary and they both provide energy and make people feel good, but in different ways. Coffee has caffeine (which energizes and gives panic attacks) and chocolate (a sweet drug that children consume) has theobromine.

Sibö and Café Britt

Sibö and Café Britt to me have nothing really in common other than their goal of expanding their businesses. Café Britt wants to expand everywhere from hotels, to retail stores, to even moving to another plot of land to build a chocolate factory. Sibö knows they’re a small business that is overshadowed by companies like Britt, so they stick to niches like small boutiques because it works best for them. Their goals are to increase sustainability, transform land into a more forested landscape, and give jobs to people locally. This to me means more than trying to take over the market.

If I started a business today, I would go with the chocolate industry. Like I said, chocolate is my #1 and after visiting Sibö, I respect what the company stands for and I value the chocolate history. Chocolate to me is more interesting than coffee and the process of making smooth, creamy chocolate, is more fun than working with coffee beans. Yes, it’s a harder industry, but it’s something I would be more interested in (also more serotonin for my depressed brain).

Pura Vida!

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