Latin America

Chocolate a divine gift

Costa Rica is an incredible place! Not only does it have stunning wildlife, pristine beaches and plenty of adventure, but did you know you can also have a genuine cultural experience with indigenous tribes? I didn’t.

I am always weary about ‘tribal tours’ as many have become a tourist attraction rather than a real look at the local way of life. I was very pleasantly surprised by the Bri Bri tribe and the village tour on my recent trip and think it is a ‘must’ for visitors.

“I’m not sure orange is my colour!”

The Bri Bri reservation is in the province of Limon, approximately 30 mins from Puerto Viejo town and you can do this tour from many of the hotels in this area. You will be accompanied by a bilingual guide and you will quickly find yourself immersed in the middle of the rainforest learning about farming methods, hunting techniques (not practised anymore), medicines from the land, houses and most importantly chocolate – one of their most sacred beliefs is that chocolate, from the cacao plant, is a divine gift which they use for natural medicine and purification rituals as well as for a source of food.

I tried miracle fruit, which is exactly what it’s called, a miracle because it had me eating a whole lime and thinking it tasted delicious. It does something to your taste buds…. for the better. I learnt ‘forest makeup’ with the numerous seeds and plants used for nail polish and eye shadow. I’m not sure orange is my colour but fascinating nonetheless.

Chocolate tour

Where it all begin…the cacao fruit

Then grinded into…….

Dried seeds being roasted

Delicious chocolate

Rory crushes the seeds

Sampling our ‘banana sandwich’

Once you’ve seen how the families live and sustain their culture by growing fruits, beans, rice and other native crops, you then learn about chocolate making, a highlight indeed. When I looked at my Dairy Milk bar at home I honestly don’t think about where it came from, but seeing it (and making it) first hand is a wonderful experience. Of course, you get to sample the fruits of your labour with a banana/chocolate ‘sandwich’ followed by some hot chocolate.

At the end of the tour the local families do have a small gift shop where you can purchase hand crafted items, but in no way, are you pressured into buying anything. Your finish your tour a with few minutes’ drive to one of the many beautifully, cool waterfalls where you can relax and enjoy the refreshing water.