Failing to Make Chocolate from Cocoa Pods in Costa Rica

Making chocolate from pods title image

When life gives you cocoa pods, make chocolate. At least that was the idea.

During our three month house sit in Costa Rica we stayed in the Osa Peninsula jungle, with many edible plants growing in the yard. We found some cocoa trees on the property and decided to make chocolate. Because, you know, how difficult could it be?

According to the internet (the source of all our knowledge) the hardest part of making chocolate from scratch for North Americans like us, is getting ripe cocoa pods. We had that covered thanks to living just outside Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.

Tim in Osa Jungle house yard
Costa Rican House

Farmers harvest cocoa pods as they come ripe. The pods cannot be stored longer than two weeks, so nature decides how big a haul you get before you start processing. For us it was about 5 pods. Not a huge harvest, but enough to play chocolatier.

To begin, we cut open the stiff shell of the cocoa pod to free the wet cocoa nibs inside. Basically, chocolate starts as a corncob-looking bunch of beans covered with a slimy white mucus. Yum.

Hands holding 2 red cocoa pods
Red cocoa pod cut open to show nibs

The next step of making chocolate from pods is stinky (at least it was for us). The nibs need to ferment, so we wrapped them in banana leaves and set them in the sun for a week.

Quick side story – the house in Costa Rica had plenty of banana plants and we ended up with 5 dozen bananas all ripening at the same time. We hate to waste food, so we laid waste to our guts and ate nearly all them. Banana farts aren’t pretty.

Banana leaves wrapped cocoa
dried banana leaves over cocoa chocolate nibs

After a week of sunbathing the banana/nib bundle we cut the fermenting cocoa nibs open to find… a disgusting mess. Maybe cocoa nibs are expected to look (and smell) like a gross pile. But we decided that this marked the end of our chocolate making adventure.

We dumped the mess into the Sierpe River for the crocodiles. Then we bought a locally made chocolate bar and enjoyed it. Mess free.

Gross fermented chocolate nibs
Heather driving boat on Sierpe River
Oscuro Sierpe Chocolate Bar

If staying rent free in jungle of Costa Rica interests you, check out The Truth About House Sitting in Sierpe. This area of Costa Rica has many part-time expats needing reliable house sitters like you.

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