If you asked most people on the street what they picture when they think of chocolate, they’d probably describe a patently unhealthy, over-processed Hershey’s or Snickers bar. But did you know that chocolate has a long history of use as a health food?

Chocolate was originally consumed as a healthy drink, with more of a bitter taste like that of the whole cacao beans it came from, rather than a sugary confection. It was so energizing that scouts and soldiers could run on it all day as their only source of fuel, but now most commercial chocolate has been stripped of its nutrients!

The aforementioned chocolate bars and their contemporaries are packed with unnatural, genetically modified sugar, corn syrup and soy lecithin, but true chocolate uses the best organic cacao and all-natural and organic ingredients, like the chocolate made from the Beach Chocolate Factory in Calle Aguacate, Costa Rica.

I recently had a chance to visit the home of Beach Chocolate Factory founder Henrik Bodholdt, a true chocolate connoisseur originally from Denmark who hosts chocolate making workshops across Costa Rica, a country where chocolate was actually used as currency as recently as the 19th century. You can check out the video below for a short history lesson on how cacao went from health food to empty calorie chocolate bars, as well as some pictures from my trip.

Henrik’s cacao and the chocolate bar I made using pure vanilla and a little raw brown sugar was the best I’ve ever had, a true superfood and one of the highest sources of antioxidants on the planet.

Cacao plants in their beginning stages, in Henrik's backyard.

Cacao plants in their beginning stages, in Henrik’s backyard.

 

Pouring cacao beans into a traditional grinder (this is a corn/maize grinder like this one that works for cacao as well).

Pouring cacao beans into a traditional grinder (this is a corn/maize grinder like this one that also works well for cacao). Whole cacao beans are ground into a paste that is then mixed with sugar and vanilla or other extras, and then molded.

 

A finished chocolate bar, made from a blend of spices as the red wrapper denotes.

A finished chocolate bar, made from a blend of spices as the red wrapper denotes.

You can learn more about the Beach Chocolate Factory by clicking on their website here; Henrik does workshops on-site including at hotels and other locations.

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