Chocolate Making in Costa Rica
/ Chocolate Masterclass Programs / Chocolate Making in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Cacao

Chocolate Making in Costa Rica

Explore Cacao Cultivation, Post-Harvest processing and Chocolate Making in Costa Rica with local experts and your hosts, Julio Fernández Amón and George Soriano, founders of Sibö Chocolate. Visit cacao plantations, collection facilities and clonal gardens; and follow the tree-to-bar process firsthand from harvesting and fermentation to drying, roasting, winnowing and conching. Your chocolate making will benefit from a deeper understanding of cacao cultivation and processing and how this impacts bean flavor and quality.

Who Should Take this Program? Both chocolatiers and small-batch chocolate makers will benefit from this program. If you are considering sourcing cocoa beans, nibs or couverture at origin or want to talk about the cacao supply chain with authority, this program is a must.

Next program: March, 2025

Registration fee last year for your planning purposes (does not include travel to and from Costa Rica):

$2,300.00 US per person - single occupancy
(shared rooms may be available at a rate of $1950.00 US per person - see note in What more do I need to know? section below)

Still want to register for the 2024 program? Please email us at: to be added to our waitlist.

If you would like to be notified when the next program registration opens click here:
Notify Me

Registration fee includes:

6 nights lodging (including sales tax and lodging tax).
5 breakfasts
5 lunches 
5 dinners including farewell dinner
All in-country land transportation and private driver expenses (Monday-Friday)
All entry fees to activities specified in itinerary
Cacao and Costa Rica Experts: Julio Fernandez and George Soriano
Bottled water and snacks while traveling

Program does not include:
Alcoholic beverages
Any meals and transportation not specified in itinerary
Personal expenses

Cacao drying
Cacao in Costa Rica
Costa Rica chocolate factory

One-week (six-nights) program

We will travel toward Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast from capital city San Jose to cacao fincas (farms) and bean collection points, as well as the laboratories of agricultural centers and chocolate makers. You'll gain skills and knowledge in cacao genetics and production, bean selection, and chocolate making processes, as well as an appreciation for the importance of biodiversity and sustainability in preserving fine-flavor cacao.

The cacao industry has a long history in Costa Rica. Cacao beans, harvested from the pods of the cacao tree, were originally used as currency by indigenous peoples in pre-Columbian times and continued as a form of exchange into colonial times. In the late 1800s, cacao production was outpaced by coffee, a non-native crop first planted in Costa Rica in the 1700s. Cacao production fell further behind when blight (monilia) wiped out much of Costa Rica’s plantations in the late 1970s and 80s. Many of these plantations were replanted with bananas, and later with pineapple.

In the 21st century, cacao has made a comeback as a priority crop for the country, thanks, in part, to the efforts of the Cacao Program at CATIE—a leading center for tropical agriculture based in Costa Rica. Fine flavor Costa Rican beans are now highlighted on leading international chocolate labels, as well as local export brands driven by quality and sustainability.

Why Take this Program

  • To get up-close and personal with cacao producers and experts involved in all parts of the cacao supply chain.
  • To learn to identify cacao varieties and get to sample fresh cacao pulp, dry beans and liquor from different origins among peers in a group setting.
  • To meet future cacao, nib or couverture suppliers and get a chance to document your visit to their farms and factories
  • To gain confidence in your ability to talk about the quality of beans you source and relay your expertise to clients
  • To lead conversations with your peers about cacao, certification, and approaches to chocolate making, based on your travels.
  • And finally, because it’s a transformative experience. So much of what you read about cacao will leave you with questions until you experience the cacao story firsthand.


Program itinerary:

**Legend for meals included in your tour:
L=Lunch, D=Dinner

* Itinerary subject to change. Every effort will be made to keep the itinerary as it appears here.


  • All meals from Monday through Friday are included in this program
  • Water and snacks are available on the bus while traveling
  • Every effort will be made to keep the itinerary as it appears above. However, the final itinerary may vary due to schedules, availability and factors beyond our control.


Independent arrival at Gran Hotel Costa Rica in downtown San José, Costa Rica. Check-in time is 2:00 PM. Your room will be reserved under your name with SIBU Chocolate as a reference. If you have time today, the Jade Museum and the Museo Nacional are within walking distance from the hotel. Free night for Dinner.

Monday: B,L,D

Meet and Greet in the lobby for a 7: 30 a.m. departure to CATIE Center for Tropical Agriculture and Higher Learning. Learn how to identify cacao varieties while exploring the International Cacao Collection, housing 1,250 cacao varieties that include rare species of Theobroma. Visit clonal gardens to see how grafting and propagation work to help ensure healthy trees and a fruitful harvest. Discover how decades of research in cacao genetics have produced more disease resistant varieties that are being planted throughout Latin America. And taste single-origin chocolate made with CATIE clones at the lab. Overnight in Turrialba.

Tuesday: B,L,D

Rossi Plantation and cacao collection point / NORTICO cacao project. Harvest cacao at the Rossi plantation and collection point, and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges of planting cacao and managing an agroforestry plantation. Learn the details behind proper fermentation and drying standards and hone your skills at recognizing undesirable beans due to improper post-harvest processing. Review fermentation and drying at NORTICO, a higher elevation boutique cacao farm. Sample and evaluate cacao liquor from leading Costa Rican farms. Overnight in Turrialba.

Wednesday: B,L,D

Moore Family Farm /Wine and Chocolate Pairing. Meet Jose Alberto Moore and tour his family’s 20-hectare farm just off Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, where cacao grows amid banana and nutmeg, vanilla and tropical fruit. José Alberto will show how local “criollo” cacao planted by his grandfather mingles with CATIE clones, and discuss how he is enhancing productivity on the farm. Hear his story on the economics of growing cacao and the challenges for small growers in today’s marketplace. Head to the popular surf town of Puerto Viejo for an Informal wine-and-chocolate tasting with the owners of CHO.CO—a local chocolate shop that features micro-batch and indigenous chocolate makers in the area.  Overnight in Puerto Viejo

Thursday: B,L,D

Cacao and Indigenous Culture. Travel by dugout canoe down the Telire River on the border with Panama to Suretka, where cacao is still a sacred drink of the gods. Grind cacao beans by hand on a stone with doña Herminia and learn how she makes chocolate. Tour area farms and see firsthand how the local cooperative works with subsistence farms in the area to supply big buyers overseas. Overnight in Puerto Viejo.

Friday: B,L,D

Chocolate del Caribe Factory and Collection Point / Sibö Chocolate Meet Hugo Hermelink, who has been at the center of Costa Rica’s organic cacao production and export for decades. Tour Hugo’s latest project, Chocolate del Caribe: a regional cacao collection center and chocolate factory, featuring vintage machinery as well as a state-of–the-art chocolate line. Learn how Hugo manages roasting, winnowing, refining and conching. Gain perspective on how factories are run and quality assurance standards for exporting cacao and chocolate. Head back toward the capital city with a final stop at Sibö Chocolate for a sampling of Sibö’s award-winning bonbons and discussion on sustainability and innovation in the craft chocolate industry. Farewell dinner and wrap-up.  Overnight at Gran Hotel Costa Rica.

George Soriano Sibo Chocolate

Saturday: B

Independent departures from HOTEL PRESIDENTE.

What more do I need to know?

Please check the Costa Rica Entry Requirements to make sure you have the right paperwork to enter the country.

This program is delivered in English.

Program participants must be 17 years of age or older. Also note that the program involves a lot of standing for long periods and walking (with bags at times) so good mobility and strength are important. Because we go into small towns, access for the handicapped is minimal.

Note re shared rooms – Ecole Chocolat will pair students wishing to share a room in the order of receipt of their deposit. Please be prepared to pay the single room registration fee if we are unable to pair you with an appropriate roommate.

Our minimum requirement for this program to run is 8 students and the maximum is 13 students. You'll want to wait to book your flight to Costa Rica until we confirm that the minimum number of students have registered.

Julio Fernandez Sibo Chocolate

What You will Learn

This weeklong program includes guided visits to the International Cacao Collection at CATIE, housing 1,250 varieties of cacao, as well as three cacao farms, two collection points, a chocolate factory and indigenous areas. It covers:

  • Cacao genetics, propagation and planting
  • Farm management and post-harvest processing
  • Cacao and chocolate tasting
  • Supply chain paradigms
  • Factory design and equipment
  • Cacao and chocolate industry standards

Program certificate:

Students completing the program will receive a digital Ecole Chocolat Certificate of Achievement.

cacao fermentation in Costa Rica

What our graduates have to say

"This was an amazing experience that exceeded my expectations, I learnt so much about genetics and cloning which I found fascinating. Also the propagation, and grafting as well as the clonal garden/ nursery. I also enjoyed learning about all the processes from growing, harvesting, fermenting and drying. Everyone was very generous with sharing their skills and knowledge which made it a very enjoyable and memorable experience that was packed with information. Highly recommended." Richard, 2024 Program

"I'll be honest: the curriculum WAAY undersold the program. If you have any interest in cacao - its origins, its environmental and economic impact, its place in history and culture - this was a worldview altering experience. It was not at all what I expected and so much more than I had hoped for. 100 out of 5. The love that these two have for not just chocolate, but the farmers, the plants, the earth, and the country of Costa Rica was a privilege to be a part of. They perfectly balance each other with George meticulously guiding us to ask questions that would get the answers to questions we didn't know we wanted to ask, and Julio providing color and filling in the gaps with humor and delight." Mark, 2024 Program

"This experience exceeded my expectations! I would definitely describe it as a one in a lifetime experience. I felt very honored and privileged to be able to experience the places we went and the people we met. I gained the knowledge that I was seeking, and it left me feeling very personally fulfilled and inspired! Julio and George were really incredible program leaders. I learned so much from them! They went out of their way to learn a little bit about all of the students, and they were available whenever we needed help with anything." Anna, 2024 Program

Cancellation policy:

Our Ecole Chocolat Gradute Programs only accommodate a limited number of students and are usually full, with a waiting list. As the programs involve a travel component, we need to contact those on the waiting list in enough time so they can make travel arrangements. If you have to cancel, we'll do everything in our power to find a replacement but can't guarantee that we'll be successful. No refunds will be given after 45 days prior to the program start date. Make sure you're totally committed to the program before paying your registration fee. We also suggest that you take out travel insurance when booking your travel to and from the program country, in case of an emergency.

Your Instructors

Sibo Chocolate

Julio Fernández Amón and his partner George Soriano of Sibö Chocolate is eager to share local insight on their country’s past and present with signature humor and sincerity.

For Julio and George, starting a chocolate business that features cacao from Costa Rica became their way of helping protect the natural world, as well as a way to spark new interest in a growing industry for their home country. They also hope their business will highlight the importance of cacao to Mesoamerican cultures throughout the ages.

Today, Sibö Chocolate has two nib-to-bar chocolate workshops with attached retail stores, as well as a chocolate tasting tour. Sibö Chocolate has been honored with multiple awards by the International Chocolate Awards. Sibö Chocolate was honored by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) for its contribution to the industry as a chocolatier.

Back to list of our other Graduate Chocolate Masterclass Programs

Images from the previous Programs

Costarica Cacao Farmer

Costarica cacao farmer.

Harvested Cacao pods

Julio and EC Grads in the orchard.

Ripe Cacao Pods

Comparison of ripeness in harvested cacao pods.

Close up view of fermenting cacao beans.

Feeling the heat of cacao bean fermentation.

Cocoa Bean cut test

Cocoa bean cut test to check for good fermentation.

Costarica chocolate factory

In Sibo's chocolate factory.

Cut open cocoa beans

Selecting cocoa beans.

Get reminders about upcoming classes! To receive program updates and news, click the link below.


Photography by Jessica Washburn, Bliss Chocolatier and Ecole Chocolat

UnderstoodThis site uses cookies to help maintain session persistence and language preferences. Services such as Google also place cookies here to help us improve your experience by providing insights into how the site is being used. Visit our Privacy Policy page to learn more about the cookies found on this site.
Add to Home Screen iconThe Add to Home Screen notice.
Add a Home Screen shortcut to launch like a native app?