Ok, so this is a fairly niche post topic – and somewhat away from my usual ramblings, but stick with me…
When I first accepted the invite to go to to Grenada to experience the island and attend their annual chocolate festival I didn’t have a clue what I was going to experience. In a good way that is! I had visions of Willy-Wonka style factories and fountains of chocolate. What I found was a passionate community who love chocolate and love Grenada and are SO proud of the products they produce. The passion and community feel really was infectious and it made the visit to ‘the spice of the Caribbean’ completely unique from any other Caribbean island I’ve been to.
Lesson one: Chocolate farms and factories are NOT as you would expect
In Grenada at least, a chocolate (cocoa farm) is not like the sort of farm you would imagine. No neat rows of plants or trees. More like uneven/hilly land with a selection of trees in all shapes and sizes, at different stages or development. With different pods in all sorts of colours.
Farms are pretty rugged, even the most developed ones. The newer/less established farms are remote – some only accessible by foot. Grenada has a real range of farms and plantations where they grow cocoa and manufacture chocolate on a whole range of scales.
Lesson two: Sucking a cocoa bean fresh from the pod is delicious
I’ll be totally honest and say I was a bit clueless about the whole process behind making chocolate. Sure, I knew it was cocoa and could maybe point out a cocoa pod… but getting it from pod to bar? Clueless. Even less did I know that it you crack open a cocoa pod, inside are little white-goo covered beans that you can immediately grab and suck on. They might look a bit bizarre, but they’re SO tasty. Fruity and refreshing. Who knew cocoa would have a fruity taste?!
Lesson three: Grenada chocolate has given me a new found appreciate for chocolate
I don’t just meant the taste, but the whole process. As I said at the start the cocoa community in Grenada is a passionate one and they feel SO strongly about the future of the cocoa industry on the island. With the average age of cocoa farmers being in their 70’s, it’s an industry that struggles to attract younger farmers due to the fact it’s a really hard slog to grow and produce chocolate. Those that are in the industry work incredibly hard and love what they do – from plantations that have been passed down through generations to others who have left the island to work elsewhere and made the call to pack all that in and make a go of long abandoned family land to transform it from overgrown jungle into a working cocoa farm and home grown and produced chocolate.
Having seen the job they have in front of them and the labour that goes into producing the quality of product Grenada offer – it really has given a whole new appreciation for the manual work that goes into the production of chocolate. In particular the small farms and independent growers and producers. It’s definitely changed my view on more mass produced chocolate overall.
Lesson four: There’s A LOT more to Caribbean Islands than the beautiful beaches
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few gorgeous Caribbean islands and whilst they’re all absolutely gorgeous. Grenada is the first time I have really explored beyond the picture perfect beaches. Seeing (and swimming in) waterfalls, jungles, the more rugged sides of coast, hills and small villages and spice markets. It really did teach me a lesson to explore beyond the white sand and turquoise sea! I’m all for relaxing beach holidays, but there are so many more sides to Grenada to explore – if you go there, please make the most of it and go on an island tour to see more than the perfect beaches (that are pretty perfect) as the rest if the island is equally as stunning.
I had such an incredible time visiting Grenada – seeing how friendly and passionate the islanders are both about their island and the cocoa (and nutmeg) industries. It was a place and experience I’ll never forget – it’s definitely changed my view on chocolate overall. I haven’t found myself reaching for the same sort of chocolate treats as I normally would since I got back. Knowing how much goes into the production of niche chocolate and of course the taste difference! It really does make me think that little bit more before I make a choice.
The Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival for 2018 dates have been confirmed as 11-19th May 2018 – well worth exploring or aiming to be on the island at this time to experience it!
Pure Grenada: www.puregrenada.com
I was a guest of the Grenada Tourist Board & True Blue Bay Resort (base & founders for the Chocolate Festival)