We were invited from our Tica friend Melissa to visit Hacienda Los Trapiches, which is one of the few active sugar mills left in Costa Rica. Every Sunday they grind up (juice) fresh cut sugar cane and let people watch how they turn it into edible candy. The location is on the outskirts of Grecia, and they also have a restaurant, natural trail, pool, and playground area. The funny thing is that we visited this place one of our first days in Costa Rica to use the pool.
This time they had a large crowd, as on Sunday is when the mill operates. We also thought this would be an interesting learning opportunity for TM as now we have started homeschooling. We plan to take multiple “educational” trips for TM while we are here, and this was a good start.
They start grinding the sugar cane at 8 am, we did not arrive till 10, so we did not see the water mill in full force, however it still does spin every few minutes, so at least we got to see how the grinding works. We learned that the sugar cane they use was just cut the day before, so it is as fresh as it gets.
TM was quite interested in the grinding process. He joked with me that this was the “worlds largest juicer”.
There were a few extra pieces of sugar cane laying around, so TM decided to put a few into the grinder. We learned that sugar cane has very thin thorns, they were almost like hair thin, and they hurt. Luckily a guy warned us after we had only handled a few so we didn’t get it too bad.
Melissa was a wealth of knowledge about the whole process and history. She also showed TM and MK how one of the original/”old school” methods of sugar cane grinding was done.
The juice/extraction then makes it way to 3 large concrete and metal “bowls”, where it is heated for hours. They don’t use electricity (water powers the grinder), and they use firewood and left over sugar cane after extraction process for heat.
The fire kept the kids interested, and GL was always pointing at the fire.
Like I said above, there are a quite a few other things to do will visiting, as the whole process is almost a full day event. We used the pool for a little while (too cold for me) as it is fed by mountain water, walked around the grounds, and ate lunch at the restaurant.
The heating of the sugar created an interesting smelling smoke, and it also looked pretty cool.
Once they were ready to actually create the candy, we learned they make 3 separate products from the same batch of sugar cane. They make a softer chewable style that I would almost compare to taffy, and had a taste similar to a Sugar Daddy for anyone who remembers those. The second is harder, but not as hard as a lollipop, more like a harder type of chocolate, they actually spread out the mix and then dump peanuts on top of it while it hardens. The third kind is put into what looks like baking molds and is ground into brown sugar.
Here a guy is literally stretching the candy by hand to create the “taffy” style.
We bought both styles of candy, and though it was good, we all agreed we prefer Snickers and Twix.
It was a long day, but was a great learning experience. Our next educational field trip is to an active volcano, so we are excited.
Till next time…