One of the coolest things we did on Saint Lucia was the Bean to Bar Experience at Hotel Chocolate at the Rabot Estate. Check out Part 1: Tree to Bean Experience. Once we’d seen how the cocoa plant is grown & harvested, it was time for us to work on our very own plants for Part 2: Bean to Bar! The tour extends into the nursery where workers are carefully tending the fledgling plants.
There are two strains of cocoa plant. There is a hardy cocoa plant that grows deep, strong roots. Unfortunately, this one isn’t very flavorful. The other strain of cocoa plant is more delicate, very flavorful. Unfortunately, this one has very weak roots & is easily uprooted. St. Lucia is outside of the hurricane belt so it doesn’t get hit very often, but thanks to intense storms & the occasional hurricane, cocoa growers realized that they couldn’t solely rely on the delicate cocoa plant. The solution is to carefully graft the flavorful beans onto the roots of the more hardy cocoa bean. Creating a cocoa plant that can withstand storms, but still tastes delicious!
We were given the chance to very carefully (with much observation as you can see!) graft our two plants together to make our own super plant!
We then got to put our name on the cocoa plants that we had grafted together. That way we can return to visit the cocoa plants that we grafted! What a great excuse to come back! I mean, we wouldn’t want our plants to feel neglected would we???
One day my lil plant will make big cocoa beans like this one!
Now onto the good stuff…the making of the chocolate! We were given ground dried cocoa nibs, cocoa butter and sugar to grind up in our mortar and pestle. The pestle was heated to help melt it all together. The heat from the pestle plus grinding for a long time eventually melted the cocoa butter, sugar, and cocoa nibs together enough that it started to resemble chocolate. It was hard work! I really appreciate our modern machine making treats so much more accessible! The final step was to pour the chocolate into molds then let it set. What a glorious excuse to have drinks & lunch at the amazing hotel restaurant while our bars set. More on that next!