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Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier - Fine Chocolates Made by Hand

608-249-3500 | Mon-Fri 10-6, Sat 11-3, Sun CLOSED

Another new decade ahead of us. A few days ago, I was talking with a friend and we remembered how monumental 1970 seemed to us then, our first cognizance of a new decade. We wondered at the year 2000; we’d be old if we were even alive! Here it is – 10 years after the new millennia – and I feel as if I’m just hitting my stride. Funny how time changes your perspective.

So does travel. It broadens my view of the world and allows me to appreciate how lucky and blessed I am. Thank you, universe! Especially for bringing Costa Rica and its people into my life. I recently returned from my fifth trip there. The tan is beginning to fade, but my smile won’t.

On this visit, I brought along one of my kitchen managers, Karina. We started in San Jose and then visited with my friends Hugo and Hubertien who own Finmac, an organic cacao farm near Guapiles.

Karina, second from left, with the women of Amazilia.

The farm is about 266 acres, employs 19 workers, and has 13 homes for the workers. One of the homes is a guesthouse and kitchen area for the women of the farm who have been working together for five years. The group, known as Amazilia, make their own chocolate bars. They now have a presence in some of the tourist hotels as well as supermarkets in San Jose. Karina and I were invited to share our chocolate making experiences and to help them improve their techniques.

I loaned the group a tempering machine and we taught them how to make caramel. They were thrilled! They had been tempering by hand. The machine will help them be more efficient. And who doesn’t love caramel? Good stuff indeed.

Then we traveled north to Guatuso and Upala, which are near the Nicaraguan border. The folks of Guatuso are also trying to revive cacao. They told stories of generations of family that had farmed cacao. Cacao is part of the fabric of their lives and they really want to revive it for themselves and their children. They had a lot of questions for us and many of them were beyond my ability to tackle. But their enthusiasm and desire to bring back this way of life was very moving. I will do what I can to help.

The families of Guatuso are passionate about regaining the cacao farming way of life.

On previous trips, I had a friend with me who used to live there and did all the driving and made all the arrangements. This time, it was all up to me. I was nervous about it at first, especially the driving, but I realized that I’m much happier being in the driver’s seat than simply a passenger. I had a blast.

Being in the driver’s seat makes a world of difference, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. So as this brave new decade begins, I hope that you’re in the driver’s seat and off on great adventures.

Yep, that’s me in the driver’s seat! There were cows everywhere!

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