A Visit To A Cocoa Plantation in Saint Lucia

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Ah, chocolate! If you’re anything like me, it is more of a necessity than a luxury. Needless to say, I love treating myself to one of the many decadent chocolate desserts at Capella Marigot Bay. So when I found out I could visit a Cocoa Plantation and discover just how chocolate is made, I couldn’t resist!

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Our guide, Cuthbert, knew everything there is to know about cocoa! There are three different types of cocoa beans, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Trinitario is a hybrid of the first two and Criollo is the rarest because the trees are not as robust. Forastero is the most common type of bean and is the one most commonly used in the chocolate we usually eat!

Cocoa beans grow only in tropical climates, making St. Lucia the perfect place to farm all three varieties! The pods can differ greatly in color from green to light yellow to dark red depending on the type. The color of the pod can also reflect its state of maturity.

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I was surprised to discover that the beans inside the pod are encased in a white pulp!

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In St. Lucia, they call these “Jungle M&Ms” because the pulp is actually delicious! I was so surprised when I tried it for the first time because the resulting tangy sweet flavor is incredibly enjoyable so Jungle M&Ms are now one of my favorite refreshing and healthy snacks.

But the pulp also plays an important role in the early process of cocoa creation because it helps the beans ferment.

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Once the beans have sufficiently fermented, they are placed out in the sun to dry.

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I was so impressed to see how diligently they keep the beans dry at this stage. Even the slightest sprinkle and the beans are covered immediately!

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I also learned that cocoa trees take 3 to 5 years to start producing pods and because of that, a horticultural technique called grafting is used to help trees grow faster and sturdier! I got to create my very own graft which was later planted in the ground and will one day become a productive cocoa tree. Visitors who create their own grafts get to name their tree!

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But before the grafts are transplanted for cocoa production, they live in a lovely little green house, where they are protected from the elements.

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While at the Cocoa Plantation, they taught me how to make my very own chocolate.  Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing that recipe with you next time!  But until then, treat yourself to some high qualit

y dark chocolate. Not only is it delicious, it’s also healthy. In a study done at the University of Copenhagen in 2008, they discovered that participants who ate dark chocolate had less cravings for junk food.  Chocolate is also high in antioxidants and theobromine, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.  The higher the percentage of cocoa, the better it is for you. Aim for 55% and above depending on your taste preference.  With so many health benefits, I guess there is no need to feel guilty about my chocolate obsession!

To plan your own cocoa tour, just let your Capella Marigot Bay Personal Assistant know.  They will be happy to plan a visit to a cocoa plantation here in Saint Lucia.  Definitely a sweet experience!

Unser Cocktail Herrenschokolade in der Capella Bar

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Als ich gestern durch die Düsseldorfer Einkaufsstraßen lief und mir ein kalter Wind ins Gesicht wehte, musste ich mir eingestehen, dass der Herbst nun auch bei uns angekommen ist. Die Rheinpromenade sieht in dieser Jahreszeit besonders schön aus, denn mit den bunten Blättern sieht sie aus wie eine goldene Straße. Ich genoss meinen Rheinspaziergang sehr und um mich danach aufzuwärmen, entschied ich mich dazu die Capella Bar im Breidenbacher Hof aufzusuchen und zu sehen, ob meine Kollegen mir einen ihrer Cocktailkreationen empfehlen können.

Zum Glück konnte mir Carsten, einer unserer Barkeeper, ein Getränk empfehlen, welches die Vorfreude auf die kältere Jahreszeit steigert. Die Herrenschokolade kombiniert Aromen von einem Single Malt Scotch Whisky mit dunkler Schokolade, welche den Geschmack und die Nuancen des zwölfjährigen Whiskys verstärkt. Ich mochte besonders, wie die beiden Elemente miteinander harmonieren. Für diejenigen unter Euch, welche den speziellen Geschmack dieses besonderen Cocktails probieren möchten und keine Zeit haben, in unserer Capella Bar vorbeizuschauen – hiermit könnt ihr den Cocktail selber mixen:

Herrenschokolade

Herrenschokolade

Zutaten:

4 cl 12 Jahre alter Dreifach Destillierter Auchentashan Single Malt Scotch Whisky

2 cl Frangelico Likör

2 cl Mozart Schokoladen Spirit

Ein Tropfen eines im Barrique gereiften Whiskys

 

Zubereitung:

Die Zubereitung des Cocktails ist genauso, wie ich es mag: einfach! Fülle Eiswürfel in ein Glas und füge die Zutaten nacheinander hinzu. Wichtig zu wissen ist, dass der Tropfen eines im Barrique gereiften Whiskys nicht zwingend nötig ist, um diesen Coktail zu genießen. Verrühre die Zutaten und fülle das Glas mit Eiswürfeln auf. Sobald dir der Geschmack gefällt, kannst Du den Cocktail mit Schokolade garnieren. Viel Spaß!

Wenn Du in Düsseldorf bist, dann empfehle ich definitiv einen Besuch der Capella Bar um den Cocktail auszuprobieren. Folge @CapellaBBH bei Twitter und gewinne einen Cocktail als Teil unserer #CapellaBarMonday Aktion.

 

Chocolate: Food Of The Gods

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September is probably the most important the month in the year for Mexicans, because it’s the month when we celebrate our independence.  This year we are celebrating 204 years of independence from Spain, and at Capella Ixtapa we have prepared several activities throughout the resort to celebrate this special day.  I decided to visit Chef Miguel and talk with him about Mexican sweet gold, chocolate.

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Cocoa bean

“Chocolate, perhaps the most popular of sweet foods, has a long history in Mesoamerica and was an important part of Mayan and Aztec culture,” explained Chef Miguel, “at which time it was neither sweet nor a food, but a beverage, and a sour one at that.  Today’s word chocolate derives from the Aztec language Nahuatl, from word xocolalt, meaning bitter water (there are several explanations about the origin of the word chocolate; this one is one of the most cited).  The Aztecs made a variety of chocolate drinks, combined with honey, nuts, seeds, spices, flowers, and hot chili pepper among others.  The thick and cold drink was believed to be a health elixir with aphrodisiac qualities, bringing wisdom and power to anyone who enjoyed it.”

Aztecs valued cocoa beans so much, that they used is as a currency as well.  For example, fur cocoa beans could get you a pumpkin and ten would but a rabbit.

Chocolate tamal, a dessert at Capella Ixtapa

Chocolate tamal, a dessert at Capella Ixtapa

The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl, who descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree from paradise.  The scientific name of cocoa tree Theobroma is very suitable to its heavenly attributes, as it means “Food of the Goods.”  The Aztec emperor Montezuma drank thick chocolate dyed red.  The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use.  He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day!  In Aztec times, the chocolate drink was used in important religious and social rituals, primarily by priests, emperors, soldiers, wealthy and honored merchants.

Montezuma was the one who introduced cocoa beans and chocolate to young Spaniard Hernán Cortés, who conquered México in 1519 and in 1528 returned to Spain with some cocoa beans.  The Spaniards were the ones first starting to add sugar to the drink, and it became quite the delicacy.  The formula for this highly demanded and noble potion was kept a secret, which Spain managed to keep from the rest of the world for almost 100 years!

Slowly, the secret was revealed, and chocolate was introduced to royal courts in France in 1615 and Austria in 1711.  A Frenchman opened the first chocolate house in London in 1657, and Italians began serving chocolate in Florence and Venice in 1720.  The chocolate was first introduced to United States in 1764. Industrial Revolution in 18th century helped make chocolate available to masses.

We got first eatable solid chocolate in 1847 by an Englishman Joseph Fry, and… you know the rest.

Today, chocolate in Mexico is still widely used.  Not just as a drink or sweet food, but also as an ingredient in the popular savory mole sauce.  The most traditional use for chocolate is for hot beverages such as Atole, Champurrado and Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Chef Miguel was kind enough to share his recipe form Mexican Hot Chocolate, one I am sure will become a favorite at your home!

HOT MEXICAN CHOCOLATE

Although Montezuma drank his frothy chocolate cold, you can enjoy a delicious whipped version of hot Mexican chocolate.
In a bowl, put 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and mix with enough water to make a thin paste.
In a large pan, bring to a boil 4 cups milk.
Break 2-4 cinnamon sticks into the milk.
Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Carefully stir in the cocoa mix.
Turn off heat and whip to a froth just before serving.

It tastes godly, doesn’t it?

For activities at Capella Ixtapa during our Patriotic month celebrations, please email the Capella Ixtapa team at pa.ixtapa@capellahotels.com, or visit the Capella Ixtapa Facebook page for the latest updates.

Chocolate: Alimento de los Dioses

Chocolate tamal, a dessert at Capella Ixtapa // Tamal de chocolate en Capella Ixtapa

Septiembre es probablemente el mes más importante del año para los mexicanos, ya que es el mes en que celebramos nuestra independencia.  Este año celebramos 204 años de la independencia de España, y en Capella Ixtapa hemos preparado varias actividades en el resort para celebrar este mes tan especial.  Decidí visitar al Chef Miguel y platicar con el sobre el “oro dulce” de Mexico, el chocolate.

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Cocoa bean // Grano de cacao.

“El chocolate es probablemente el dulce más popular, tiene una larga historia en Mesoamérica y fue una parte muy importante de las culturas Maya y Azteca,” me explicó el Chef Miguel, “en ésa época no se le consideraba ni un dulce ni un alimento, sino una bebida, y una bebida amarga.  La palabra “chocolate” como la conocemos actualmente se deriva de el vocablo Nahuatl “xocolalt”, lo cual significa “agua amarga” (en realidad hay muchas teorías sobre el origen de la palabra chocolate; esta es una de las más citadas).  Los Aztecas preparaban una variedad de bebidas de chocolate, combinadas con miel, nueces, semillas, especias, flores y chiles entre otras.  La bebida, espesa y fría, se creía que era un elixir con capacidades afrodisiacas, atrayendo sabiduría y poder a cualquiera que la disfrutara.”

Los Aztecas valoraban tanto los granos de cacao, que los usaban como moneda.  Por ejemplo, cuatro granos de cacao podían comprarte una calabaza y por 10 podrías comprar un conejo.

Chocolate tamal, a dessert at Capella Ixtapa // Tamal de chocolate en Capella Ixtapa

Chocolate tamal, a dessert at Capella Ixtapa // Tamal de chocolate en Capella Ixtapa

Los Aztecas atribuían la creación de la planta de cacao a su dios Quetzalcóatl el cual descendió del cielo en el haz de luz de una estrella de la mañana llevando con el un árbol de cacao del paraíso.  El nombre científico del árbol de cacao, Theobroma, encaja a la perfección con sus atributos celestiales, ya que significa “Alimento de Dioses”.  El emperador Azteca Moctezuma bebía un espeso chocolate teñido de rojo.  La bebida era tan prestigiosa que se servía en copas de oro las cuales se desechaban después de un sólo uso.  Le gustaba tanto que se cuenta bebía alrededor de ¡50 vasos al día! En tiempos de los aztecas, la bebida de chocolate era utilizada en importantes rituales religiosos y sociales, principalmente por sacerdotes, emperadores, soldados, y comerciantes famosos o acaudalados.

Moctezuma fue el que introdujo a un joven Hernán Cortéz a los granos de cacao, Cortéz quien llegó a México en 1519, volvió en 1528 a España con algunos granos de cacao.  Los Españoles fueron los primeros en agregar azúcar  a la bebida, y esto la volvió un manjar singular.  La fórmula para esta poción tan popular y noble fue mantenida en secreto, lo cual España logró ocultar al mundo ¡por cerca de 100 años!

Poco a poco, el secreto fue revelado, y el chocolate se introdujo en las cortes reales francesas en 1615 y en Austria en 1711.  En el año de 1657, un francés abrió la primera casa de chocolate en la ciudad de Londres, y los italianos comenzaron a servir chocolate en Florencia y Venecia en 1720.  El chocolate fue introducido en los Estados Unidos por primera vez en 1764.  La revolución industrial del siglo 18 ayudó a hacer el chocolate accesible para las masas.

El primer chocolate sólido comestible apareció en 1847 preparado por el inglés Joseph Fry, y desde entonces, ya conocemos el resto de la historia.

Hoy en día el chocolate en México es aún ampliamente utilizado.  No sólo como una bebida o dulce, pero también como un ingrediente de la comida, por ejemplo, en la famosa y deliciosa salsa tipo “mole”.  El uso más tradicional para el chocolate es en bebidas calientes como el Atole, Champurrado y el Chocolate caliente mexicano.

El Chef Miguel fue muy amable en compartirnos la receta para preparar un auténtico chocolate caliente mexicano, ¡estoy segura que se convertirá en una de sus recetas favoritas en casa!

CHOCOLATE CALIENTE MEXICANO

Aunque Moctezuma bebía frío su espeso chocolate, puedes disfrutar un delicioso batido de chocolate caliente mexicano.
En un tazón, poner una taza de azúcar, ½ taza de polvo de cacao, y mezclarlo con suficiente agua para hacer una delgada pasta.
En un sartén amplio, hierve 4 tazas de leche
-Desmorona de 2 a 4 varitas de canela en la leche.
Baja la flama y cocina a fuego lento durante 5 minutos.
Cuidadosamente mezcla la pasta de cacao.
Apaga el fuego y bate a punto de nieve antes de servirlo.

Sabe como bebida de los Dioses, ¿verdad?

Para saber más de las actividades en Capella Ixtapa durante nuestro mes patrio, por favor, envía un correo electrónico a nuestro equipo en pa.ixtapa@capellahotels.com, o visita la página de Capella Ixtapa en Facebook para las noticias más recientes.

The World Gourmet Summit at Capella Singapore

World Gourmet Summit

Last week was the end of the annual World Gourmet Summit held in Singapore.  The event ran for two weeks and took place at restaurants all over the country.  As a lover of food, this is definitely one of my favorite events of the year because it is an opportunity to taste dishes from amazing chefs from all over the world.  Capella Singapore’s The Knolls was very fortunate to be one of the venue hosts for this event and we had the immense pleasure of hosting two renowned pastry chefs from Spain, a father and son team, Paco and Jacob Torreblanca.

The menus were truly fascinating because it was the first time I saw a full savory menu featuring chocolate.  An interesting and unlikely combination of ingredients was my first thought when I saw the menu for the dining events.  It included a Venison Pears Terrine with Chocolate Chutney, a Warm Scallop with a Chocolate Crust and Daikon, Japanese radish, and a Roasted Pigeon Breast served with a bitter chocolate sauce and hazelnut cauliflower puree.  However my apprehensions were soon put to rest, as Chefs Paco and Jacob’s blending of flavors were sublime.

This distinctive dining concept was Chef Paco Torreblanca’s idea and the result of his fascination with the possibilities of blending cocoa with Mediterranean ingredients.  From this spark of inspiration Chef Paco and his son Jacob have gone on to create a whole new and unique dining experience.

World Gourmet Summit

The series of dining events at The Knolls also included a Chocolate High Tea.  One of the most notable desserts featured the Cassis Royal, a light raspberry and pistachio layered cake marked with a giant white chocolate “oyster.”  Chef Paco shared the story behind this dessert, “I had a friend who loved oysters, but unfortunately one day he had some that made him sick.  Hearing this, I told my friend that I would create for him an oyster that would not make him sick and that he would love.”  Talk about a great friendship!

Hopefully you will be able to join us for a future World Gourmet Summit– I know my stomach is already looking forward to the next event!

Capella Ixtapa’s Chocolaterapia

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I love learning about the different spa treatments here at Capella Ixtapa.  Lately, everyone has been talking about the Chocolaterapia, which showcases both cocoa and coffee.  Intrigued, I sat down with Spa Manager Valentina Velazco to find out more:

 What does the Chocolaterapia treatment consist of?
Chocolaterapia is a very pampering treatment, created to relax, rejuvenate and nurture.  The treatment includes three steps: an exfoliation, a wrapped mask, and a massage. First, the exfoliation is done using a scrub made out of coffee grains that removes dead skin cells.  This readies the skin to receive nutrients.
Next a rich mask of cocoa and coffee are applied over the clean skin and the body is then wrapped.  The wrapping warms the body, allowing pores to open and the body to receive the treatment’s benefits.
Once the nutrients have been absorbed, its time for a shower followed by a nurturing massage.  A cream out of cocoa and coffee is used to seal the treatment in.

 What are the benefits of coffee and cocoa? 
At the Capella Ixtapa Spa our treatments are mostly derived from elements found in the region.  The coast of Guerrero state, where Ixtapa is located, is well known for its coffee.  Coffee regenerates and detoxifies skin, improving the health and giving it a fresh and firm glow.  Meanwhile the cocoa, which has a rich Mexican history, is a great moisturizer full of vitamins and minerals.  Both cocoa and coffee are also natural antioxidants.  Together they have fantastic rejuvenating properties.

What inspired you to create the treatment?
Cocoa is considered one of the country’s greatest historical treasures.  Dating back to the time of ancient Mexican civilizations, the seeds were so precious that the Aztecs used them as currency.  Even as a beverage, cocoa was known as “the drink of the gods!”
I wanted to pay homage to this history by combining it with another element, the coffee, which is one of today’s proudest crops.  The combination was ideal, because of the nurturing benefits of both elements.

It sounds delicious! I can’t wait to try it myself!
Indeed it is!  Our clients often say that Chocolaterapia is the most delicious 50-minute experience they have ever had at a spa.  By the end you leave feeling pampered like a true Mexican God or Goddess!