A couple of years ago I came across La Iguana Chocolate when browsing the Internet one day. I found it absolutely fascinating. An organic chocolate farm in the middle of the jungle; and they spoke Spanish! I’ve always had a passion for both chocolate and Spanish so I vowed to myself that I would pay them a visit some day.
I decided that I needed a long trip somewhere exotic. I inquired about vacancies for volunteering at La Iguana and there happened to be a place, despite it being a busy time of year for them. I managed to find relatively cheap flights and book the time off work (to my surprise) and so I went ahead and organised my trip.
It was a dream realised. Since it was not harvesting season, I was expecting that I wouldn’t be able to see any cacao pods on the trees. Their cacao plantation is actually a few miles away from the home, but, to my absolute delight, they had a variety of fruiting cacao trees in their gardens! They are so beautiful and to see them in real life made me feel so happy.
I was even lucky enough to be given a fresh cacao pod to see inside and taste the white flesh that surrounds the beans. I was in heaven. The flavour was absolutely divine! It tasted like mangosteen – one of my favourite fruits from the other side of the world (I fell in love with mangosteen when I visited Southeast Asia a few years ago). It’s interesting that this flesh tastes nothing like chocolate, yet is still delicious!
Although I inevitably experienced a little culture shock, I really enjoyed submerging myself in true Costa Rican culture and speaking Spanish with the family and locals. The days of work involved roasting and shelling the beans, refining and sieving the powder, making various flavoured truffles using locally sourced ingredients, packaging and labelling. I also participated in some gardening, baking and preparation of meals.
My whole trip lasted just under 3 weeks. I decided to spend half of my time at La Iguana, and half of my time seeing a couple of other places in Costa Rica (and Panama) since I wanted to make the most of it while I was there. I went to Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica), Bocas Del Toro (Panama) and Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica).