Discovering a country though its food is by far the best way to envelop yourself in a new culture. Taste everything and learn about how the beloved food items of an island are produced.
Nothing says the weekend in the Dominican Republic more than grabbing a drink at your local colmado (bodega), and that drink is typically a rum and Coke. Made from all local Dominican ingredients, the rum process is one the Brugal family takes very seriously. You can visit their museum in Puerto Plata and sign up for a guided tour of the facilities. The tour covers everything from the moment the sugar cane plants are harvested to learning how to taste the rum itself.
Visiting El Sendero del Cacao, an organic cacao plantation in San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic is a chocolate lover’s dream come true. As you ride up to the farm, you start spotting the cacao trees, heavy with pods on their trunks, dense foliage shading the trees and keeping the soil moist; these are perfect conditions for cacao to grow. You’re welcomed with a cup of fresh hot chocolate, made with the farm’s cacao, local sugar, and a slice of ginger. The chocolate is thick and creamy, and you'll want to go back for seconds.
The tour starts with the history of how the cacao reached the Caribbean (through the Spaniards), and the guides will demonstrate how the trees are planted. If it’s on your bucket list to plant your very own cacao tree, now is your chance. You’ll then walk into the farm itself and learn how the trees are harvested, as well as how they are protected from predators. Animals such as woodpeckers and rats scurry away with the cacao pods, and since it’s an organic farm, they bring in the best organic pest control there is: snakes! So, watch out for those!
The tour continues through the farm, where you’ll see how the cacao is fermented and dried, getting it ready to be shipped around the world. Dominican Republic is known for having some of the best single origin and organic chocolate in the world, so be sure to take home a few bars.
Recognized worldwide and even seen on popular TV shows such as Dexter, Presidente Beer is the unofficial beer of the Dominican Republic. When you visit, be sure to ask for “una fria vestida de novia,” a classic term to describe a beer so cold she’s dressed in “white” (ice crystals). Tours are set up through their offices and must be made at least a month in advance; you’ll learn the type of hops used in making this popular beer, and you'll finish the tour with a bottle of beer in your hand.
Tours are normally offered in both English and Spanish, depending on your group. If you're setting up the tour in advance, make sure to mention your preference. Also, remember that the Dominican Republic is a warm island, so dress comfortably: sneakers, shorts, and short-sleeved shirts are recommended for everyone. Tour guides work for tips, so be sure to tip your guide at the end of the tour if it was instructive and educational to you.
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