We had breakfast at the lodge – more pancakes, scrambled eggs and fruit, and Ed and I decided to book on the coffee/sugar cane/chocolate plantation tour, along with Lu and Tom. We were picked up at 9.40am to be driven to the plantation, stopping on the way to collect some other people.
We arrived at 10am and started the tour which included seeing the coffee, sugar cane and cocoa plants. We learnt that none of the above are actually native to Costa Rica! The coffee is best grown at altitude and the plantation that we visited is a family owned and run affair. They process their own crops and export directly to coffee shops around the world. The coffee is dried three ways – natural (in the seed), honey (with the outer shell removed) or clean (with all shell and sap removed) – and this affects the flavour.
Next we saw the sugar cane processing – the old fashioned way (using an ox), and the ‘new’ way using a water wheel. We were also able to see, and try, how they make sweets from the sugar cane. The sugar cane liquid is heated to get rid of most of the moisture and then poured onto boards where you need to work it until the consistency changes. The result is a fudge like sweet, which it turns out sets rock hard – best enjoyed fresh!
We then moved onto the cocoa plants and saw how the beans are first fermented before being dried and finally crushed to make cocoa powder. We were able to sample the different tastes at each stage and it was clear that it is only with the addition of sugar and milk at the end of the process that the chocolate becomes sweet!
The final product that we were shown was how they use the sugar cane to distil the sugar cane liquid to make a very potent drink – we sampled a very small portion of the drink – at 60% it tasted very strong! This is a traditional drink in Costa Rica although few people now make their own moonshine version after the government introduced strict controls to prevent people being made blind or even dying from the neat version!
At the end of the tour we were taken to the family house (where a number of tables had been set up) and given a sample of coffee, traditional lemonade, and a tortilla topped with the fried root of one of the local plants. We decided to hold off on buying coffee here so that we could visit their café in the town centre to try the different sorts of coffee that they sell.
We were taken back to town by minibus and as it was now lunchtime we returned to the Treehouse bar for a drink and snack. Here we met up with some of the others who had been doing their own activities that morning.
Our next stop was the coffee shop with Cheryl and Angela where we were served by the barista who had been roasting the beans earlier at the plantation. He gave is samples of the natural roast, honey roast and a chilled peaberry roast before we decided which to buy to take home!
We caught a taxi back up the hill to our hotel this time and sat around in the courtyard. We spotted some more birds in the trees and also a ‘variegated squirrel’ with black and white on their back. At about 5pm the group met up to walk a short way from the hotel to have a view of the sunset over the Bay of Naycona. It didn’t look promising initially as it was quite cloudy, but in the end the sunset was amazing – but not well captured on camera.
On return to the hotel we had a short break before again meeting up to go to a local restaurant for dinner where the food was OK, but not of the same standard that we had the previous evening. The service was also pretty slow despite it not being that busy and it was 9.30 before we got back to the hotel. We headed straight for bed ready for an early start on Wednesday.