Samara- Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Making workshop
After a few days in the marina finishing up boat work, it was time for Agape to continue her voyage south. The next major town down the coastline was Tamarindo, but with most people describing it as a large, gringo hub consisting of mostly overprices bars and restaurants, with surf schools lining the beach, we decided we were not in a huge hurry to get down there. We took three days hoping the short 50 miles from Playas del Cocos to Tamarindo, stopping off at Bahia Guacamaya and Brasilito along the way. We would strongly recommend both these bays, as they were muy tranquillo and fairly protected from the dominate wind and swell.
Tamarindo was just about everything we had heard it would be. The shoreline was packed with tourists, the bars were overpriced and the small but fun waves were very crowded. The plus side though to that much tourism is the gourmet food options we had been dreaming about, large well-stocked grocery stores and pretty decent WiFi.
Samara can be a tricky place to anchor and it’s only recommended to enter the bay in daylight, as there are reefs lining the entrance and all along the inside of the bay. To get the most protection, you can tuck in behind a small island and if you get it just right, is can be a very comfortable anchorage. Getting to shore on the other hand can be quite exciting, especially when there is a swell running. There’s surf breaks all along the beach and we had to time getting to shore just right. We rolled the dingy way up on the beach to make sure the high tide wouldn’t sweep it away, locked it up to a palm tree and walked into town.
Samara is a cute little town but becoming a popular destination for yuppy-hippy travelers. The streets are lined with organic tea shops, vegan grocery stores, hemp clothing vendors and hand made artisan crafts. Sean was kind enough to pick us up in town, where we picked out spices we’d be flavoring our chocolate with later. He drove us out of town a bit to a friends house for dinner, drinks, and of course to learn about making chocolate.
Rachel and I were very impressed by Sean’s knowledge and love for what he does. Although his real passion is making wine, Sean also makes and teaches courses on chocolate, kombucha, kimchi and probably anything else that you’d be interested in learning about thats fermented. It’s not just his knowledge of the process, but of the history and cultural importance that makes his workshop so fun!
We started with the raw cacao beans, roasting them over a flame to ease in the removal of the light shell and to help release the aroma and flavor of the beans. After they were heated to the perfect temperature we first used what looked like an old school coffee grinder to crush the whole beans to a consistency similar to coffee, then using a fan we blew off the delicate shell material from the crushed beans. Now, with the cleaned cacao beans we could start the fun stuff!
The next step was the most time consuming part of the process. Sean had another motorized grinder that would now take the finely ground cacao and turn it into pure dark chocolate. The longer you leave the machine running the more creamy the chocolate turns out, I believe he said something like 10 hours is ideal, but we only had so much time that evening. After about four hours in the machine the chocolate was creamy enough to proceed, only now it was time to do a little math.
When you buy chocolate at the store it will often have a percentage listed on the label, this referrers to the percentage of cacao in the bar verse other ingredients, mainly sugar. This is why a lot of people like bars between 60-70% cacao, where there is enough room to really heap in the sugar, and maybe even some sea salt, chilly powder or even coconut shavings. Pure Chocolate has a very strong and bitter taste, and without these sweeteners to offset its natural flavor I don't think chocolate would be as much of a hit.
After mixing in the sugar and natural flavorings, it was time to pour our chocolate into the forming trays and refrigerate for a few hours to cool and take shape.
We were so impressed by Sean's knowledge and generosity, and were so thankful to have had this opportunity to meet him and take his course. We also got to walk away with full bellies and a bag of delicious chocolate! It was every cruisers (and women's) idea of a great night!
Early the next morning as Sean was boarding a flight back to wine country, Rachel and I were getting Agape ready to round Cabo Blanco and sail the 50 miles to Bahia Tambor, an anchorage that would end up being one of our favorite destinations in all of Costa Rica!