The history of chocolate in Saint Lucia dates as far back as the 1700s when cocoa plantations flourished in the area. And it's no wonder the crops fare exceeding well here; Saint Lucia benefits from a tropical, humid climate moderated by northeast trade winds that allow for enjoyable conditions year-round. The average temperature is 78.8 °F (26°C) at sea level.
Today, many local chefs and resorts are revitalizing this once thriving industry by offering multi-sensory chocolate experiences to guests; in doing so, they are fostering the growth of talented people and strengthening the heritage of chocolate growers.
If you share my enduring passion for chocolate, I recommend the following experiences on the island you won't want to miss out on:
Emerald Estate Farms and Jade Mountain's Chocolate Sensory Experience
No other place encompasses the philosophy of 'farm to table' more than Emerald Estates. Started in 2007 by owners of Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet resorts, Nick Troubezkoy his wife Karolin had the forward-thinking idea of owning an organic farm that could support the ingredient needs of the kitchen.
Today, the 40 acres of farmland grows an astonishing amount of food that include mangoes, sugarcane, eggplant, buckwheat, lovage, green beans, cilantro, amaranth, Malabar spinach, cocoa, and countless more. Each year, the farm grows enough to supply 70% of food for both resorts.
Guests who stay at the resort will be allowed to tour the farm and see where their food comes from. Martin Joseph, the 'local boy' farmhand, will show guests around the property, highlight crop varieties, and answer questions.
If you're lucky, you'll have an opportunity to meet horticulturist and scientist Pawan Srivastava, who will happily delve into the specifics of cocoa with you.
He explains: "There are 3 types of cocoa in the world: Forastero - which creates what Pawan describes as 'your generic Cadbury and Hershey chocolates', Criollo - which creates premium Swiss and Belgian chocolate, and Trinitario (a cross between Criollo and Forastero)- which is grown at Emerald Estate."
There are 1000 cocoa trees on the property with two harvesting seasons, Sept - Oct & May- June. There are 45 pods per tree and 1 pod = 1 chocolate bar. That is a total of 90,000 bars per year. But it isn't enough. Demand has been so great that they've had to plant 500 more trees and also buy cocoa beans from local farmers.
Fun facts from Pawan:
- Cocoa trees with labels are called ICS (Imperial College Selections). They are clones and numbered to identify the breed and what type of cocoa bean it grows.
- The cocoa bean is "the most intelligent of plant species" and defies plant laws. They exhibit cauliflory and have no discernable flowering pattern. Once flowers are pollinated, they transform into pods.
- There are 30,000 differences in genes between cocoa beans and humans.
- Cocoa plants can live for 200 years.
- Fermentation occurs naturally; once the beans are harvested, they're put in a box together for a week.
- The beans separate from the white pulp (cocoa juice) and they're dried in the open sun.
- This 'cocoa juice' is very acidic and it is used by locals for cooking.
Not-to-Miss activities at the Chocolate Lab:
Stefan Goehcke, Executive Chef at Jade Mountain, has been producing chocolate with the resort for 2 ½ years. With chef, you'll have an intimate 'Chocolate Discovery' experience that lasts one hour. In addition to plenty of tastings, participants will learn how to temper chocolate and make truffles alongside chef. Also offered on site are the chocolate and wine tastings at the restaurant - Jade Mountain Club.
Souvenirs for friends and family:
The range of Nick Troubetzkoy's Emerald Estate Chocolate Bars (60%-92% cocoa solids).
I personally recommend 92% Cocoa and Chipotle 70% Cocoa.
Hotel Chocolat Tree to Bar Experience
The name 'Hotel Chocolat' was initially a metaphor devised by British entrepreneurs Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris. The idea was that a taste of their chocolate, bought from their shops in the U.K. or mail order catalogues, could transport you to " a state of bliss in your mind". But today, an actual Hotel Chocolat exists in Saint Lucia. For the partners, it seemed to be the next natural step. Rabbot Estate, the plantation they purchased, has never had slaves on it even though the 140 acre property dates back to 1745.
You don't have to be a resident of one of their 14 resort homes to participate in the Tree to Bar experience. Participants get to graft their own cocoa plant in the nursery. Grafting is a way for farmers to control cross pollination that would otherwise occur naturally and randomly. The control method allows growers to continue to produce quality beans in the nursery.
Participants receive a photograph of their plant, an opportunity to name it, and receive timely updates on its progress and production of cocoa pods.
Interesting Facts from our Chocolate Guide:
- 120 farmers currently buy Hotel Chocolat's grafted plants. Hotel Chocolat then buys back the wet beans at a higher cost to encourage farm cultivation and production of cocoa. The program is called Chocolat Cacao Growers Program of Engaged Ethics.
- Hotel Chocolat never borrowed any money from banks to facilitate the construction of the resort. Instead, the business owners sold Chocolate Bonds (33% worth) to its 100,000 members in order to raise the funds necessary. Money made from bonds sold: 3.5 million £.
- Thanks to the finance via Chocolate Bonds, the on-site chocolate factory in Saint Lucia will be completed in 18 months.
Making your own chocolate bar from scratch using a heated pestle and mortar, cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, confectioner's sugar, and LOTS of elbow grease. Take home your bar and brag to your friends about your homemade chocolate bar.
Souvenirs for friends and family:
Chocolate bars sold at the resort use cocoa beans grown exclusively in Saint Lucia and Hotel Chocolat's Rabbot Estate. I recommend the 72% Dark, Saint Lucia Island Growers bar.