A guest post by Heidi Roberts, Kitchen Talk and Travels
In 2014 the Grenada Chocolate Festival was born. The aim was to bring the love of chocolate grown on the island to the visitors to the island in a fun and informative way, to raise awareness and educate.
I write a food and travel blog Kitchen Talk and Travels and was invited to Grenada in 2015 as a guest of the chocolate festival. I was told my visit to Grenada and the Chocolate Festival would change my life – cliché I thought – but in fact it did just that! I returned again the following four years and was planning to attend again this year until the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans.
When I first visited the island, I thought cocoa beans hung on the trees, kind of like coffee berries. What a culture shock to see the actual cocoa pods. The pods are quite large and fit neatly into two of your hands. The colours of the cocoa pods vary from pale yellow to greens to deep dark reds.
Each pod holds a number of cocoa beans however at this stage you probably wouldn’t associate them with the chocolate you know and love. From harvest to chocolate bar there are many processes the humble cocoa bean goes through like, fermenting to start the flavour development, drying, roasting, winnowing (getting rid of the bits of shell), grinding and finally proceeding to the production of the actual chocolate bar.
Do not take for granted the process that artisan chocolate goes through as you slide open the foil covering and take a bite. Do not rush to chew and swallow your bite but instead take a moment to let the chocolate melt on your tongue while you savour the smell and tastes of the plantation where it was grown. You can almost feel the offshore breeze if you close your eyes and concentrate!
So what have I experienced during my visits to the Grenada Chocolate Festival?
During my times at the festival I have been a Cocoa Farmer for a Day; together with island legends Esther and Omega I cooked authentic Grenadian recipes with the added ingredient of chocolate; I made homemade beauty products with Sheba; visited Belmont Farm to see how they are researching the development of chocolate growing; I have eaten fresh grapefruit from the trees while on a cocoa farm (the sweetest grapefruit I have ever tasted); and I have enjoyed social events like an evening at the West Indies Brewing Co drinking chocolate beer, Chocolate Street Food Wednesday at Dodgy Dock (True Blue Bay Resort), and so much more.
I have also taken part in all of the festivals since 2016. I have made chocolate and banana ice cream, baked mini chocolate tarts, mini chocolate cheesecakes, baked chocolate and spice banana bread and this last one did a virtual cocoa tea making session.
I went to the Caribbean not expecting to fall in love with The Spice Island paradise like I did.
The island is a very complex place and it’s impossible to narrow down the reasons that I love it there so much, however I thought I would just list a few. In no particular order:
Grenada has five main and one new chocolate producers, all of them growing the cacao, harvesting the wet cacao beans and processing them into top quality, world class chocolate. The future of the chocolate on the island is championed by Magdalena Fielden, who organises The Grenada Chocolate Festival to educate, enlighten and inspire generations of future Grenadians and visitors alike. This year is the 8th Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival.
Grenada is a spice paradise on earth. You don’t need to look far to find nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, turmeric, vanilla and all growing in abundance on the island. One of my goals was to pick my own nutmeg. As well as a visit to the Grenada Nutmeg Processing Plant in the small fishing village of Gouyave, I had the immense pleasure and opportunity to pick my own nutmeg from a nutmeg tree on the Crayfish Bay Cocoa Plantation as well as stuffing my pockets with the ones that had already fallen on the ground.
The local spice market in St Georges is an explosion of colours and smells to treat all your senses.
Generally, I have found that the people who live in Grenada are warm and friendly. The residents of this paradise island want you to enjoy your time there. If you ask anyone for information or help in finding somewhere they will go out of their way to get you there.
Grenada has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Grand Anse beach is often considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Over 2 miles of beautiful white sand – you can walk the whole length dipping into the calm and warm waters to cool off at regular intervals!
The focus on food is freshness and local, simplicity yet innovative, intricate and innovative! There is a plethora of high-end restaurants, small food bars and street food available.
We stopped by the side of the road to chat to a young lady who was cooking corn on the cob from her home garden and selling to passing motorists.
The markets have piles and piles of fresh produce all locally grown – bananas, coconuts, limes, breadfruit and more. And, of course, don’t forget the rum. Rum is my spirit drink of choice, on its own with an ice cube, a splash of Coca Cola or local pineapple juice, mmmm!