Cocoa in Costa Rica


Scientific name: Theobroma.
Meaning in Greek: food of the gods

This plant is medium size (between 5 and 8 meters, although it can reach up to 20 meters), its pivoting root with many superficial secondary roots (about 30 cm from the ground), each with simple leaves of green color, variable and entire.

Its fruit grows in small clusters, and it has a form from almost spherical to a very elongated ellipse. It is a quite diverse fruit, since its surface can vary from very rough to completely smooth in some cases. The color varies between white, green and red in the green fruits until the yellow, orange and purple of the ripe ones.
The fruit normally contains about 5 compartments filled with grains, but when they mature their walls disappear and there is a cavity that can reach from 25 to 70 grains (usually occurs in outsiders).
Flowers that grow in small clusters, open during the afternoon and can be fertilized throughout the next day.

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First Crops in the World:

The first cacao trees grew 4000 years ago naturally in the shade of the rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins. The first inhabitants in the Central American sector to grow cacao were the inhabitants of Puerto Escondido, in Honduras, around 1100 BC. C. In addition between 600 and 400 a. C. extended to Belize as well. About 900 a. C. the planting of cacao was extensive in Mesoamerica.

Importance of Cocoa project:

Is remarkable the initiative to improve cocoa production and conserve the biodiversity of the Talamanca area in Costa Rica with the Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable Production Project in small indigenous farms that produce organic cocoa in the Talamanca-Caribe Biological Corridor. The project involves indigenous people from the Bribrí and Cabécar cultures, two of the most important cultures in Costa Rica

History of Cocoa in Costa Rica:

The cultivation of cocoa begins in the Central Valley, expanding to the Caribbean side and at the hands of the ancestral indigenous culture, who were the ones who gave it more intense uses than the rest of the population.

The cultivation continued until 1979; however, diseases appeared in the crop, as was the cacao monilia, which damaged the crops and produced a drop in their production. In 1985, the Tropical Agronomic Center (CATIE) which helped to strengthen the species and agronomic techniques, with this help, the crop took strength in exports, reactivating the culture of cocoa in the Caribbean and Talamanca and again positioned itself as a gourmet quality product.

At the end of the 1980s in Costa Rica there were three industries and twelve cocoa exporting firms. Some of the main claimants were: Costa Rican Cocoa Products, El Gallito Industrial Limitada. Provesa and Hering and Hering, who at that time were the ones who had the most production and export in the country.

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In 2007, CANACACAO was created by 12 associations and companies that had the objective of making use of the country’s potential and becoming a recognized supplier in the world market for high quality cocoa, produced responsibly in terms of social standards and environmental.

The lands of Costa Rica have many of the optimum characteristics for a successful high-quality cocoa crop, in terms of acidity, humidity, water table and composition. Given the scarcity of economic activities that help raise the quality of life of the inhabitants of agricultural areas, especially activities that imply a low impact on the environment, the possibility of reactivating the cultivation of high-quality cocoa as an alternative is very relevant. Such is the case of the Talamanca area in the Southern Caribbean, where productive projects have been developed in peasant and indigenous communities, combining ecotourism and agro-tourism with the production of organic cocoa and banana

Uses of the indigenous Cocoa:

  • The Mayans created a bitter concoction called “chocolha”, made from cocoa seeds. This medicine or potion was only consumed by kings and nobles, but it was also used to give solemnity to certain sacred rituals.
  • Chocolate was used for therapeutic purposes. Maya doctors prescribed cocoa consumption both as a stimulant and for its calming effects.
  • The warriors consumed it as a restorative drink, and the cocoa butter was used as an ointment to heal wounds.


1- ANTIOXIDANT: The antioxidant effects of cocoa can directly and positively influence insulin resistance or the body’s disability to respond to insulin, helping to reduce the risk of diabetes.
2- CANCER: since it is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that act at the cellular level; these fight free radicals and prevent the formation of cancer cells.

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3- CHOLESTEROL: As demonstrated by scientists at Harvard Medical School, the consumption of dark chocolate, with 60 to 70% of cocoa, lowers the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol and increases the “good” cholesterol.

4- DEPRESSION: Stimulates certain neurotransmitters in the brain that help relieve depression and obtain a sense of well-being.

5- STRESS: Theobromine, an alkaloid present in cocoa, is a non-addictive stimulant of the central nervous system.


Cocoa provides vitamins A and B and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, copper and potassium. Folic acid and thiamine (B1), which contains cocoa as a raw material, are essential nutrients for the regulation of metabolism.

Cocoa contains tryptophan, an amino acid that favors the production of serotonin. Other amino acids found in cocoa are phenethylamine and anandamine.

Cocoa's exportation in CR (2015)
Cocoa production in America (metric tons 2018)
Grams is the standard weight of a plant
It can have up 33 grains / kg

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