A Chocolate Immersion at Luna Nueva
We take chocolate very seriously here at the farm. We also take it hot, cold, spicy, and sweet, in bars, confections, and happily, all throughout the day. It starts from our biodynamic practices, which focus on the life force of the soil and the united consciousness of all who live on this abundant land. We also respect that chocolate comes from one of the most sacred plants of the New World tropics – Theobroma cacao or “Food of the Gods.” We know that all ecosystems thrive with biodiversity, so we grow our cacao amidst the riot of life in the rainforest, mixed in with myriad other species. We coddle our cacao with biodynamic kindness, nourishing the plants with our homemade biodynamic preparations. And we study, study, study, always striving to learn more about humanity’s long love affair with this delicious food.
Our cacao orchards are also seed banks, preserving ancestral varieties of cacao for that day, perhaps not far off, when cacao plantations around the world experience total collapse. Even now, many cacao plantations suffer from two fatal fungal blights, and no amount of toxic chemicals has successfully protected these plants. But here, on our biodynamic farm, we use no toxic chemicals and our cacao trees are healthy, productive, and delicious. We are a living demonstration that the world can feed itself by farming in way we term regenerative – fully organic but also focused on the health of each aspect of our ecosystem. Indeed, there is no long-term alternative to regenerative agriculture, and the worldwide cacao blight is proof that harsh industrial farming practices threaten our food security.
As you walk through our fields and our Sacred Seeds Sanctuary you’ll encounter ten varieties of Theobroma cacao. Six of these varieties were developed or made available by CATIE, an international post-graduate research institute that focuses on sustainable agriculture in the tropics. We are proud to feature these varieties, which were bred to offer both disease resistance and flavor. Our more traditional cacao varieties include forastero, trinitario, and two types of criollo. Criollo, or “wild” cacao, is the genetic fountain from which the magic of cacao flows, and it’s critical to maintain these wild varieties. We have two criollos – one from South America that is famous for producing chocolates with extraordinary flavor and the other, porcelana, is known as the highest quality of cacao in the world. It delivers a fruity taste to the palate, and it has seeds that resemble porcelain – pure white and not the typical purple bean.
In our Sacred Seeds Sanctuary you’ll also find an ancient relative of Theobroma cacao called Cacao de Mono – Monkey Chocolate. Its scientific name is Purpurea harrania, and it’s endemic to Costa Rica. A favorite of monkeys and squirrels, this plant is living art in a garden, with cacao pods draping in spirals around the tree trunk
Finally, we grow Theobroma bicolor or Pataxte. This plant, known as “Jaguar cacao,” has a flat white bean that is not suited for making chocolate but it’s a star variety for making a hot cacao drink.
And that leads us to the most important part of the chocolate experience for our guests – the flavors of chocolate you’ll enjoy on our chocolate tour.
Your guide will show you how the cacao beans are first fermented to create and accentuate flavors, and from there you will roast, peel, and then grind the cacao beans. Some of the grinding will occur on a grinding stone known as a “metate” discovered in this region of Costa Rica. It’s made from volcanic rock and archaeological clues hint that our metate is approximately 1,000 years old.
Once ground, you’ll experience the ancient Mayan version of the drink, which is hot and flavored with spices from the New World. Hot peppers, allspice, annatto, and vanilla are your Mayan choices – you’ll make all the flavor decisions. You’ll also be able to make the hot chocolate the “European” way, using sugar, powdered milk, and cinnamon. There is no one right way; it’s all up to you, but you’ll have experienced hot chocolate like you’ve never even imagined.
At the same time, some of the ground chocolate will be processed in a small machine invented by a Swiss chocolatier named Rodolphe Lindt. This machine is called a conche, which creates the flavors and melting qualities of fine European chocolates. You’ll witness the transformation of the cacao power into a buttery liquid, which you’ll then flavor “as you like it” with ingredients such a dried fruits from our farm, sea salt, nuts, cacao nibs, or hot peppers.
The experience of cacao in this, its birthplace, binds you to our forest. It also connects you to the ancient and modern history of this sacred plant, and from this day on you’ll be known as a Lunatico Chocolatier! Pura Vida!