Ancient history shows that the indigenous tribes favored the cacao bean’s sweet divine taste so much that it was used as a currency when exchanging goods. Described as a fruitful treasure from the gods, it’s uniquely bitter yet savory flavor made it a prominent part of Costa Rican heritage and one of the country’s major industries until the late 18th century when coffee was introduced. In 1979, an infectious fungus swept through the nation, destroying over seventy percent of its cacao trees. Production dwindled down to merely five percent causing a major shift in trade and agriculture. This tragedy forced many local farming operations to produce other crops to recover from the massive economic devastation.
Fast forward to the present-day burgeoning of the cacao industry, when agricultural engineers have mastered modern innovation to refine sustainable processes that improve efficiency and maintain the pure quality of organically refined chocolate. These modern techniques minimize waste, prevent erosion, and decrease the probability of crop depletion. By prohibiting the use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, these methods significantly reduce the ecological footprint on the agricultural in Costa Rica. Farms must be evaluated over the course of three years to receive the valued certified organic status.
There are many systematic variations of producing organic cacao, however, La Anita Rainforest Ranch has formed a unique procedure that preserves the essential flavors of cacao. To initiate the process, the cacao tree grows in areas secluded from sunlight. By reducing sunlight, the rapid growth of sprouting weeds is controlled. The fruit is then wrapped in recycled bags and sprayed with a mixture of chili spices and water that, insulates the plants from exposure and acts as insect repellent. Because the rain forest is susceptible to major flooding, ditches are dug to manage excessive water flow. Until the cacao bean develops a vibrant yellowish color, its leaves are closely monitored for infection. If found, the affected areas are cut off and left to decompose. Once the remaining beans are ripened, they are extracted to make some of the world’s most cultivating chocolate.
An important part of producing organic cacao is the recycling process. After the harvest, the pruning material and plant waste binds together into an organic compost. This allows nearly fifty percent of matter to return to nature and thirty percent to be used during the reproduction process as fertilizer or fouler spray. Remaining true to its heritage is a philosophy that La Anita Rainforest Ranch embraces.