Tuesday, April 9

Chocolate Wisdom

All you need is love.  
But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
-Charles M. Schulz

Even though we had a lesson on how chocolate goes from the tree to a bar, it was fun to go to Belmont Estates and see the process in person.  Belmont Estates is located in the historic parish of St. Patrick on the north east side of the island.  It is 300 years old, set on 400 acres of lush rolling hills and offers tours of their cocoa making facilities, animal farm, museum and a restaurant.

We were greeted by this beautiful Grenadian hostess at the plantation restaurant for lunch

View of the open air restaurant and sea beyond

We enjoyed a traditional Grenadian lunch buffet full of creole food.  And for dessert, we had chocolate cake, made from the their very own chocolate made on the plantation.

A sample of chocolate tea as we wait for our tour to start.

African Violet tree

Olivia rings the historic bell

A painting illustrating the cocoa and nutmeg trees

These are the fermentation bins where the beans are brought by the growers.  They are put into these wooden bins, covered with banana leaves and sacking material.  Every 6 days they remove the wooden slats from one side of the bin and shovel them into the next bin, thus performing a cycle.  They do this for several weeks until the white pulp melts away.

Listening to Lauren tell us about the fermentation process. 

Looking at the fermenting beans under the wooden slats

The bean drying takes place in these trays and dried by the sun.  The clever design of these giant trays allows them to be pushed under cover if it starts to rain.  These sun trays are not used anymore now that they have a new greenhouse, picture behind the kids.  The plantation workers used to walk and shuffle the beans with their feet to turn them.

Drying cocoa beans

Beans drying inside the greenhouse

Mace drying in the sun after it has been removed from the outside of the nutmeg shell

Walking around the plantation

Beautiful orchids growing all over the plantation

The bougainvillea flowers are growing in an old copper basin that was once used to polish the fermented beans.  They called this the 'cocoa dance' and would last 3 hours and performed to the rhythm of music by three women dressed in traditional clothing.  I imagined this process to be similar to smashing the grapes for wine making.  This step has been eliminated due to modern equipment that can remove the fermentation residue.

I'm not sure what these are called but they are pretty cool looking palm trees

"Polly want a cracker?  Hello?  Pretty bird!"

Don't be deceived by the friendly looking nature of this monkey.  He'll lure you in with his gentle touch and then when you least expect it, he snatches your hair, sunglasses or braids!!

"YO, you talkin' to me?"

See what I mean, he snatched Kate's bangs and wouldn't let go.  Literally.  That's Lauren helping Kate free her hair from his tight grasp.  In fact, he grabbed ahold of one of Olivia's braids and pulled so hard, he tore the end of the braid off and all the beads too.  He managed to save a bead and then tried, repeatedly, to eat it.  Little twerp.  He scared Porter and we didn't want to stay and play anymore.

So, we went to see the more benign turtles instead

Olivia thinks it's the funniest thing ever

The sun setting as we make our way back to St. George

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