My advanced Spanish group walks into Café Caburé, and we’re seated for a private tour. We ask if this presentation be delivered in Spanish so we can build our Spanish vocabulary, but the tour guide disagrees.
“This process is complicated, even in English”.
As soon as I heard words like “crystallization” and “sodium bicarbonate” in a conversation about chocolate, I had to agree.
Café Caburé is a family owned restaurant, chocolate factory, and cafe in Monteverde, Costa Rica (more or less a 15-minute drive from UGA Costa Rica). In addition to Argentinian-inspired cuisine, they also make artisan chocolate from locally grown cacao. One of the founders, Bob (pictured left) is more than willing to explain the process to us.
With my best intentions, I listen and learn as much as I am able, but the smell of the roasting cacao beans fills our tiny room, and my mind can’t think of anything else. The best way I can describe the power of this aroma would be equivalent to a tray of brownies in the oven. In this moment I wonder how on earth people can make chocolate they can’t eat. Not to be dramatic, but this seems like delicious affliction.
To go back to reality though, there are other groups that can’t eat the chocolate; most Costa Ricans. Café Caburé makes valiant efforts to support the local community; chocolate production demands small scale production, because when the producers get too large, it is much more difficult to monitor and create dried batches suitable for chocolate consumption. But despite the employment of local labor and involvement in a small mountain community, Bob himself admits that without tourism a place like Café Caburé would not be able to thrive. “The chocolate is too expensive for Costa Ricans to buy”.
But for those with the privilege of purchasing power, the price of getting chocolate from local farms, with fair labor, and made by-hand, and just flat-out being lovely are justified, at least according to our palates. I spent more or less 10,000 colones (~$20) after the tour.
During our tour, we heard a chirping noise coming from Bob’s shirt. He stops his presentation and says, “Oops, that’s the alarm”. At this point, we’ve associated enough with each other, so I feel comfortable enough to chide, “Is someone breaking in?”. The group erupts in laughter and Bob cracks a smile.
Of course, there was no chocolate burglar present.
But I couldn’t blame someone for wanting to steal these little gems.
Blog post by Anna Adair, UGA Romance Languages and Latin American and Caribbean Studies student