It’s the time of year when the UK goes particularly chocolate-barmy. Supermarket shelves are overflowing with chocolate eggs and all kinds of confectionery. But have you ever thought about how chocolate is actually made?
We took a trip to the Caribbean to discover the story behind our favourite sweet snack. Here’s the lowdown on our recommended bean-to-bar chocolate tours for all you chocoholics out there…
Our team recently went to St Lucia, and among the many highlights was a visit to the real Hotel Chocolat. Many of you will be familiar with the decadent Hotel Chocolat sweets sold here in the UK, but did you know there is actually a real hotel?! The company bought the Rabot Estate in St Lucia a decade ago, and have been growing their own cocao ever since. In 2012, they opened their doors to guests with a small hotel and restaurant, Boucan. As you might imagine, chocolate flavours feature heavily on the menu, even in savoury dishes where it’s used like a seasoning (Cacao Beer Jerked Tuna, anyone?). Whilst the hotel is in a beautiful setting and nicely done, we must point out that we found the rooms on the property to be extremely hot, as they did not all have air conditioning (even our chocolate melted!). Our tip would be to stay close by at the amazing Anse Chastanet but definitely take time to visit as a day guest, touring the plantation and staying for lunch.
The tree-to-bar tour begins with a stroll through the estate, selecting some ripe cocao beans along the way. Next is the chocolate making part, where you have to grind the beans in a pestle and mortar. Beware – if your grinding skills are lacking, the results will be very bitter – as we unfortunately found out! It certainly makes you appreciate all the effort that goes into producing the sweet treats we take for granted back home.
Chocolate tours in St Lucia:
Rabot Estate, Boucan by Hotel Chocolat: Tree-to-Bar tours run Monday – Friday except bank holidays, starting at 9am and take around two hours. Tours need to be pre-booked.
Where to stay in St Lucia:
Anse Chastenet – 7 nights bed & breakfast starts from £1199pp
Grenada is said to be one of the best places in the world to grow cocao (thanks to the furtile soil and exceptional climate). There’s something lovely about discovering the process behind turning raw beans into chocolate bars, and seeing the traditional chocolate making process in action. The best bit is when the beans are ‘danced’ – literally – someone merrily trundles through the big tubs filled with beans. There is a legitimate reason for this spectacle – it ensures the beans are continuously rotated making sure they dry evenly in the sunshine.
The best time for chocoholics to visit Grenada is May. This is when the Chocolate Festival is held. A true chocolate lovers heaven – a whole host of themed activities and excursions are laid on, including cooking classes, beach parties and even chocolate-themed spa treatments!
Chocolate tours in Grenada:
Belmont Estate, open every day except Saturday, 8am – 4pm.
Grenada Chocolate Factory, ask front desk at your hotel for opening times (they are sporadic!)
Where to stay in Grenada:
True Blue Bay – 7 nights bed & breakfast starts from £999pp
Spice Island – 7 nights all inclusive starts from £2129pp
If the idea of exploring the origins of chocolate in the Caribbean tickles your fancy, visit our main website or give one of our experts a call on 0208 329 2600. We’d be delighted to help you plan your Caribbean holiday.