Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tirimbena and a Chocolate Tour

This afternoon (01/05/18) we left La Selva and drove around the forest to the other side to another research station called Tirimbena.  This research station is very cool, and has my most favorite bridge in the whole world.  During this visit, we had a tour to learn how chocolate came to be....

 Here's the whole crew.  In the back, you can see our Toyota bus.

If you look, you'll see a lot of mediocre pictures in my blog of critters high in the trees that are heavily backlite.  This one is a slough we saw from the parking lot. 

Bekah walking on one of the bridges. 

Charlie hiking. 

Paige and Chloe sharing a seat. 

A slough chilling on a tree.  It's kinda got its head between its arms resting on its chest. 

Macklin going native. 

Tim spies a slough. 

Chris checks out something or other. 

Coltin, wearing his hat that I'm jealous of. 

Our group in a small cocoa tree forest, listening to our tour guide.  The small tree just behind the guide is a cocoa tree.

This teeeeny flower, about an inch or inch and a half long over all, is the cocoa flower.  The flower only lasts one day, and if it is not pollinated, it falls to the ground. 

Here's the crew listening to the talk. 

Sam holds a cocoa fruit.

Chris volunteered to break open the cocoa fruit by pounding it on a wooden post. 

Inside are the white cocoa beans. 

 Sam holds a cocoa bean.  It looks kinda gross, but the white fleshy pulp on the outside is tangy and pretty good.

The raw beans must be fermented 7 days.  Each day, they move the beans around.  Notice that they get darker and darker, looking more and more like the cocoa we know, and getting more and more aromatic, then they get kinda moldy....

These are fermented beans.  They are next toasted in a frying pan (sort of like coffee is roasted) and poured onto a grinding stone. 

Here Charlie grinds the toasted beans into a chocolate liquor the old fashioned way using a heated stone. 

John shows off a more modernized process using a hand-cranked grinder.  To his left are Tim, Nick, Josh, and Kate. 

Paige gets a spoon full of the chocolate is delicious! 

Our hosts take the liquor and make a chocolate drink by mixing it with water and frothing it. 

John enjoys the fruits of his labor.  Most folks added native spices to their chocolate, including black pepper, ground red pepper, nutmeg, cornstarch, and vanilla. 

Nick enjoys some chocolate. 

 Paige and Chloe.
 After the chocolate, we went on a short walk to try out the looooooooong hiiiiiiiiiigh swinging bridge.  This is Nick.

This is Tim, enjoying the view of the rapids below. 

A lot of folks were nervous about the long bridge, but everyone made it across. 

Sam taking in the view from the edge.

 Lead instructor and course guru Dr. Tim Parshall takes a picture of a small venomous viper snake.

Here's a close up of the snake - looks big, no?  It would easily fit on your hand, coiled up as it is.  I'll try to learn what species it is and post that here. 

It was a great tour!  As I write this, one group of students is out in the dark and rain with Mark and Tim doing a night hike, the other group is in the classroom learning about forest ecology with Deb. Basically, students are up at 6:00 work all day long with no break, and crash into bed at 10:00.  It's a long hard day both physically - hiking in the rain forest - and mentally, learning hard concepts at an accelerated rate.  And all the while, students are encouraged to make strong and far reaching connections between concepts, what they know, and what they are learning.  I believe this is the most intensive learning experience most students will have in their entire lives.

Tomorrow, we head to the next field station La Colandria.  I could live there, and be very happy.

Any good blog post should end with a picture of a pretty flower.

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