Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grenada Chocolate Factory

All the guides about Grenada talk about the famous chocolate factory operated by the Belmont Estates at Hermitage, at the north east corner of the island. As Al is a fan of chocolate, he had a taste of their chocolate, and phoned Edmund, the overseer, to arrange a visit to the factory on Monday (April 30th), and obtained directions to get there. We took a collectivo (mini-bus/van) to Grenville, then another one to Hermitage, total trip being about an hour and half. The driver let us out at the foot of the hill, and told us to hike up. We got so steamed up that we went all the way up the hill, and asked some people lurking around where the factory was. Apparently we went too far up, the chuckled and told us to go back almost half way down. The “factory” was a small, unpretentious building, bearing its name. I guess we were expecting to see something bigger, so missed it while walking up. We found Edmund inside, and got a small tour about the process of chocolate making, by crushing the cocoa beans, mixing it with cane sugar and grinding the mixture in a marble mill into a paste, then adding cocoa butter taken out of some other cocoa beans, and molding the whole thing into bars. Apparently when cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa beans, the remaining substance is the cocoa powder we buy on the market.
After seeing the small operation, where a total of five employees are working, including the three who wrap the bars by hand, we were told to walk down the road to the estate to see the cocoa plantation and the shop to buy the chocolate. Edmund said that it was an easy walk downhill, for about a mile. No problem. I guess Al was anxious to get there so he asked at least five people on the way, everyone telling him that we were on the right track. After walking for quite a while, we saw a cocoa plant in a forest by the road, which heralded the estate. We had a short tour of the grounds; saw the tree where the bell to call the slaves was hanging. Our young guide told us that the tree was three hundred years old and seen some slave hangings in its time. I escaped from there, the images were too sad to bear. She then showed us the fresh cocoa pod, which we know from Dominica. When Al declared his love for the slimy substance around the beans, she broke the pod open and gave him the whole thing. Al and I immediately started to suck on the beans one by one. Then she showed us how the fresh beans were fermented for a couple of days, then dried in huge trays under the sun. When Al asked what they were doing during the rains (every day since we came to St David’s), she indicated that the trays were immediately pushed into the connecting shelter, since they were on rollers. Our guide claimed that some turning of the beans while being dried was done by the feet of their employees, who walk bear-foot through the beans and leave their neat tracks as rows. Apparently they recently started to use shovels in the new system. After all the beans were thoroughly dried, the beans were polished in huge iron pots by the feet of the dancing women! After all that, Edmund gets his hands on the crushed beans to make his chocolate.
The guide pointed out that all the ingredients used in making the chocolate were organically grown; cocoa and vanilla beans at the estate, cane sugar from some plantation in Grenada. I do not know about the soya lecithin, which is used in small quantities, to give a smooth texture. Guide emphasized that because of the lack of milk in their chocolate, it does not melt in the hot weather. Since we had used up a lot of energy getting to the estate, eating and drinking the samples of chocolate and cocoa- tea (hot chocolate) (Al more than me of course) was not problem. Al bought some of the award winning chocolate, as a reminder of Grenada during the summer in Canada. What a nice way of completing our stay at St David’s Bay! Tomorrow we are off to Grooms Beach Resort for two days, and back to Canada.

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