Tsirushka, the Bri Bri word for "chocolate," was born in 2003 through an initiative of ACOMUITA, the Associated Commission of Indigenous Women of Talamanca, with the aim of raising income to benefit their extended families while preserving the values of the indigenous Bri Bri culture.
Inside the cacao fruit — Photo courtesy of Everjean
According to the Bri Bri, cacao did not start out like the cacao that the world knows it as today. Before it was even called cacao, the Bri Bri called it Tsiru, named for a woman who, like her sisters Tsoro and Scalum, was the most beautiful woman you could find, and also the most snobbish.
The god Sibo decided to test them by visiting disguised as an old, tattered man, proposing marriage. Tsoro and Scalum were deceived and turned him down, but Tsiru wasn't tricked and paid attention to him despite his appearance. For this reason, Sibo demonstrated to Tsiru his true nature as a god, and then turned himself into a well-dressed, attractive man before her eyes. Still, Sibo made a decision to punish the three sisters and turn them into a tree bearing colorful and delicious tasting fruits: cacao.
In decades to come, cacao nibs were used as currency, and cacao plantations allowed the Afro-Caribbean community to flourish until a fungus wiped out many of the cacao trees in the 1970s.
The cacao used in Tsirushka chocolate products is created by 26 indigenous Bri Bri women, and it is certified organic by the Costa Rican Eco_LOGICA. The most popular item is the pure cacao. It comes in a 100-gram disc, and it maintains all of its original properties. It's ideal for making exquisite chocolate beverages.
Among the other goodies produced by Tsirushka are the cocojetas, a lovely mix of cacao and coconut with a unique taste, and the plain chocolate organicio - small, individually wrapped pieces made with organic sugar.
Tsirushka products are available at the farm in Shiroles, where they also offer guided tours of the plantation and demonstrations of the chocolate making process. This is an educational and adventurous excursion for all ages, but reservations are necessary, and the remote location makes it at least a half-day trip.
Tsirushka products are also available for sale in the center of Puerto Viejo at ATEC. Purchasing them supports the indigenous women of the Bri Bri tribe and helps preserve their culture and traditional chocolate making ways.