Where does chocolate come from? (Tirimbina Biological Reserve, Costa Rica with kids)


September 14, 2012 by admin

seattle kids visit costa rica for the first time

Ever since the Theo Chocolate Factory moved a twenty minute walk from our house in our old neighborhood, I’ve been dying to see where chocolate comes from.  We went on many tours and each time the guide told us about cocoa pods and how they would just hang off trees and how the insides were fleshy and sweet, I wondered what this would smell and taste like in real life and I put this on my list of things that I want to see in our world travels.  This dream became a reality at the Tirimbina Biological Reserve in Costa Rica.

Looking for chocolate in Costa Rica

In order to see the process we first had to hike a little.  We also had to cross one of the longest suspension bridges in Costa Rica (It’s about 262 m long and averages about 22 meters high) to cross the Sarapiqui River.

Where does chocolate come from?  A Costa Rica adventure with kids

Of course, I was terrified and very thankful to make it to solid ground.  The boys were brave and hiked well despite having to cross over army ants, bullet ants and being deluged by rain.

Where does chocolate come from in Costa Rica?

I was amazed at how much cocoa pods look a lot like giant papayas filled with hundreds of little lychees.

Learning about cocoa with kids in Costa Rica

How do such teeny flowers become such ginormous pods?

Teeny cocoa flower in Costa Rica

And the cocoa process is a little similar to how coffee is made.  You first pick the pods.

Kid holding a cocoa bean in Costa Rica

And remove the seeds.  (You might even taste a few.  They are fleshy, sweet and don’t taste a lot like the chocolate that we get in the end.)

Kids Tasting chocolate before it is roasted in Costa Rica

Let them dry and ferment.

Roast them.

Grind them.

Helping to make cocoa in Costa Rica with kids

Then turn them into a chocolate-y drink by adding water and flavors like cinnamon and spice.

Or temper them and add milk powder to make chocolate bars. I lost a little of the talk at this point because the tasting had begun and the boys were starting to become a little like those pre-gremlins eating at midnight: overwhelmed with too. much. CHOCOLATE!

This was definitely an amazing experience and it was so neat to have the boys on the adventure.  I loved that they seemed to find it just as fantastic as I did.  Now, do I tell them about the Northwest Chocolate Festival in our own city in a couple weeks?  Or do I just go myself…….

(PS. this is my linkup for Friday DayDreamin’ on Rwethereyetmom.  Check out other vacation photos and virtually get away.)


  1. Our favorite field trips in the past have been to chocolate factories. How cool to take that a step further and actually travel to Costa Rica to see the cocoa pods growing. The pods are so much larger than I imagined them to be! Kudos to you for crossing that suspension bridge! My legs are shaking just thinking about making that trek! 🙂

  2. I’d always thought that I had no motivation to visit central or south america…. until now! Seeing where chocolate comes sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing and thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Tracy Burns says:

    That looks like the best family outing ever. Educational, hands on, canopy walk and chocolate at the end. We’re heading a cadbury factory in two weeks for a tour. So excited! I’d love to follow it up with an outing like this one where you see chocolate production right from the start.

  4. What an amazing experience – I’m not sure that I could have talked myself into crossing the suspension bridge though!!

  5. What a fun excursion! I was hoping they would give you samples at the end. I was wondering what the raw seeds tasted like.

  6. […] guys love the free samples they give out.  (The Theo Chocolate tour also inspired us to go on a chocolate tour on a recent trip to Costa Rica) These reindeer wrappers that we saw are a little too complex for preschoolers, but they’re […]

  7. […] cute friend pointing out a cocoa pod for me at the Vancouver Aquarium.  (You know how we love chocolate!)  And Leelee helping her little spot some fish in the Amazon […]

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