La Iguana Chocolate
About 90 minutes up the rocky mountain road, the dense rainforest air takes on a tantalizing scent. Aromatic, rich, fresh, and enticing. It’s the smell of freshly produced, locally grown, organic chocolate. Bouncing along in our 4×4’s, our small group winds up through the scenic mountain range to a family-owned organic chocolate farm. “La Iguana Chocolate” is tucked away in the tiny, one-road mountain town of Mastatal.
The Garcia family has been living on the land for three generations. Their lush farm grows a wide range of tropical fruits, and vegetables, such as avocados, squash, beans, bananas, plantains, oranges, lemons, starfruit, jackfruit, cashews, as well as herbs and spices. And of course, the cacao trees that give their chocolate farm its reputation.
Costa Rica is known for its high-quality production of locally grown and organic chocolate. Everything from truffles to bars, to cookies – are produced here at the family farm. The heavy smell of warm chocolate permeates the air. It is not the sweet or sticky smell from over-processed chocolate from commercial factories, but rather the irresistible smell of fresh, dark, locally grown cacao still covered in water droplets from the overnight rainfall.
A Typical Day on the Farm
In the morning, we will wake up to this smell, breathe it in over our cups of strong Costa Rican coffee, listening to birdsong and spotting toucans perched in nearby banana trees.
After breakfast, we’ll stain our fingers a dark brown from as we crack open dozens of fire-roasted cacao seeds and separate shell from the actual seed used to make the delectable treat.
Later, we’ll lick the chocolate paste off our fingers after helping shape the chocolate mix into truffles that the family will be able to sell as a way to sustain their livelihood.
During the three days our group stays on the farm, we will help with the family’s reforestation projects, and their effort to farm in harmony with nature. We’ll learn best practice for organic farming and experience a healthy and lush lifestyle in the Costa Rican mountains. We will also hike through the jungle to visit local waterfalls along trails lined with cashew trees. In the afternoons, there’s usually a local soccer game to catch watch, or join in!
The family, Don Luis, Lidia, Jorge and Vicky, have extensive knowledge of farming cacao, fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants in this tropical and often challenging climate. They are the warmest and most welcoming of hosts and are full of interesting facts and information about the flora and fauna that are so abundant in this area.
Our Costa Rica Program
By joining a Venture Within Costa Rica retreat/program, you will start off your trip by spending several days in the Costa Rican rainforest learning about, experiencing, and indulging in 3 exciting things:
- Volunteering and supporting environmental and sustainable local projects
- Immersing in the vibrant Costa Rican culture
- A transformative learning experiencing applying your skills in a new context
And of course, in addition to all the above, you will also learn about, and indulge in, locally and organically grown Costa Rican chocolate – as much as you want!