Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chocolate and rum - touring like a tourist in Grenada

It's been a hectic week - lots of cappuccinos, island tours and beach cafes. Rough rough.

Art Fabrik - a sensory delight and store I wanted to live in. All hand made in house batiks.
This has been a 'get to know Grenada' through the eyes of a tourist week. We visited quaint, delicious little curio and clothing shops.  I tried to take more photos, breathe in the colours, the rich emeralds and shocking fuschias. My senses were sharp, raw.

We finally made it to the organic chocolate factory. The universe willed it to happen and we easily gathered a group of cruisers, hired a driver and a van, and set off on a chocolate/rum road trip.

Our driver Cosmus is 78. He's been driving on the island forever. He is pretty much the only driver who takes the sharp mountain turns at a reasonable speed. He doesn't have a death wish, and we don't either, so it worked out well. It took us two hours of hills and valleys, clouds and sun patches, close calls around bends to arrive, but we made it to the Belmont Estate in one piece.

We pre-empted the whole tour protocol by visiting, buying and eating the treats from the gift shop before taking the tour, but it was worth the sin. Dark chocolate cashew clusters, melted in our mouths, on our fingers, and down our chins as we were called over to learn the process.

Sadly, like most agricultural industry in the Caribbean, the Belmont Estate first ran on the sweat of slavery. The big tree at the entrance was a gathering point, where slaves were called using the huge bell that still sits on the bottom branches. For punishment, slaves were hung from it's branches.

After this eery and unsettling story, we are led into the huge barn to see how the chocolate is made, as it has been for centuries.

Chocolate starts as beans inside the white fruit of these cocoa pods:

The beans are dried for seven days and then are laid out in the sun, where they are trampled on from time to time, to spread and turn them.

Walking on the beans.

The beans begin to lose the smell of fermentation and feet as they dry, and begin to take on the rich smell of chocolate.

Cocoa cocoa everywhere! Beans drying in the sun.

The Belmont Estate is fully certified organic and all product is processed completely in-house, no beans are sold or exported before they become cocoa powder or chocolate.

Some of the cocoa beans, ready to be sent down the road to the chocolate factory.

When the dried beans are cracked open, the little nibs inside can be eaten raw or roasted. The Grenada Chocolate Company makes a bar with the crunchy roasted nibs - it's absolutely amazing.

Needless to say, we bought and munched a few of these.

The Estate has recently stopped tours from visiting the actual chocolate factory, so we couldn't see the beans being roasted and blanded into the paste that makes the rich dark chocolate that I've fallen head over heels in love with. Maybe it's better. I might have wanted to stay forever.

Instead, we bought more chocolate and visited their restaurant on the hill above the estate. We watched the magnificent sky turn in seconds from sunny and hot to windy and grey and then open the taps from above. I was actually chilly for one of the first times since arriving in Grenada.

From Belmont we headed to the oldest, traditional method rum factory in the Western hemisphere - at River Rums.

The wheel that crushes the sugar cane has been in operation since the 1700's and was imported from Scotland (JW loved that little piece of trivia).

Sugar cane being fed up the wheel where the liquid is removed.

The waste material is then used for the fire to boil the rum.

Workers moving the sugar cane waste into wagons to be brought down below.

We were led through ancient stinking rooms, where vats of a brownish red muddy looking liquid is hand spooned along, boiling like a giant witches brew. Spiders and cockroach carcasses lie drunk and dead around the vats. I wondered how it was possible that I loved the end product of this filthy process!

From here, the distillation and purification process began.

The end product, a clear white elixir, was offered to us in tiny quarter ounce cups. I still remember the simultaneous burn internally and shiver on my extremities. We were asked if we'd like to buy a bottle but we all declined. I don't think any of us could have survived a whole shot of that!

We ended the tour with an impromptu visit to a roadside fruit and veggie seller. The place called to us as we drove past, and Cosmus happily stopped for us to snap a few photos and buy some fresh fragrant fruit.

Cosmus and Andrea
We arrived back at the marina exhausted and full of chocolate and bananas. Our eyes dozed from sensory overload. Our noses sensing the familiar water life smells, leaving all the tropical red earth and the pungency of it's fruits behind.

We closed our tourist eyes and rum-lined nerves calmed. We slept well, rocked by the waves and wind of spring time in Grenada.


  1. How I love to reda your posts. And this with organic chocolate and Rum? Heaven.

  2. Thanks Paola :) Your comments always keep me motivated to write!

  3. pop a picture of the "ancient wheel" in please? for the grinding of the cane into molasses...?