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!
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.
I was surprised to discover that the beans inside the pod are encased in a white pulp!
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.
Once the beans have sufficiently fermented, they are placed out in the sun to dry.
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!
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!
But before the grafts are transplanted for cocoa production, they live in a lovely little green house, where they are protected from the elements.
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!