Like most of you, I was perfectly content just popping an off-the-shelf choccie (Hershey’s Kiss) into my mouth, without a thought to what was in it, where it was made, or how it came to be in that familiar silver foil. After attending the Grenada Chocolate Festival, I’m like an addict now, looking only for the pure stuff. Of course, there will always be a Reece’s Peanut Butter cup in my future but now my palate is much more aware of the difference.
Why the Spice Island as home for a Chocolate Festival, asks the ill-informed Hershey nibbler? Since the 1800’s, Grenada has played a part in the cocoa business. Now, with the Belmont Estate, the Grenada Chocolate Company, the Diamond Chocolate Company and Crayfish Bay Organic Farm all creating award-winning delicious bars, it would be remiss if the Chocolate Festival were held anywhere else in the Caribbean.
How do you define “pure stuff” in chocolate terms? The Fine Chocolate Industry Association states: “Fine chocolate may be defined by both a selection of high quality ingredients and also by the unique artistry that a Chocolatier uses to create chocolates, truffles and other chocolate confections. In general, there are five areas that combine to define a fine chocolate product: cacao origin and processing, chocolate production practices, non-chocolate ingredient quality, chocolatier’s technical expertise, artistry and presentation.”
Fine Chocolate makes up only 5% of the massive industry. In its finest form, it travels from Bean to Bar in the same location, and we, intrepid fans of the brown stuff, descended upon Grenada’s shores to find our fair share.
Heralded into the True Blue Bay resort by the island beats of Bwa Mabi, the Creole party band from Martinique, we were welcomed to the Festival’s opening party by Magdalena Fielden, the Festival’s Founder. Everything was chocolate themed. The drinks were the hit of the evening: chocolate mojitos served in their own pods and daiquiri laced banana & chocolate smoothies were just some of the concoctions served up to get us in the spirit.
We were accompanied by the Minister for Implementation Hon. Alexandra Otway-Noel, the Governor General Cécile La Grenade, and the Minister Responsible for Culture Senator Brenda Hood also here to enjoy the perfect combination of rum, chocolate and great music. An indication of how important chocolate is to the island.
Early next morning, the island was filled with ooms, aahs, and asanas dedicated to that mocha-chocolata-mama of the moment, Lady Chocalat. Yoga is all about where you are now, not where you have been or are going. Still, when you know that pieces of the Grenada Chocolate Company’s chocolate are waiting for you at the end of class…it’s hard to meditate on anything else.
Ana Rita Garcia made us feel much better about taking more than our fill. Straight from yoga, we jumped headlong into her practical workshop on the Healthy Benefits of Chocolate. She should know how good chocolate is for you, since she is the curator of the Mucho Chocolate Museum in Mexico City. After a bit of a history lesson where we learned that the Olmecs of Mexico were the first growers of chocolate, followed by the Mayans, and then discovered by the French. It was known to help over 100 different ailments, including digestion, heart disease, and of course, sexual performance. The famed Montezuma II is said to have drunk at least 20 cups of chocolate a day and swore the ladies loved him.
We then got a go at making a few treatments with the brown stuff ourselves. Grinding it to a pulp, literally, we used it to make a Cocoa Body scrub, Cacao Avocado Face Mask and Chocolate Lip Balm (recipes below!). The ingredients were so delicious it was hard not to lick the bowl. I realized then why every spa in London has a chocolate treatment on their menu.
A rest from the activities until after lunch proved useful as we were about to be initiated into what the local Grenada Hash House Harriers think of as fun and games. For those who are thinking this has to do with an illegal substance, you could not be further from the truth. According to Hash legend, the first Hash was in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 when three expats wanted to combine their drinking and running habits. Trails were set with the final destination always being a pub or bar. Our final destination would involve chocolate, of course.
After being welcomed by the Hash Master, we climbed and climbed and climbed up a hill following the papery signs for W (walkers) and then through the dense Grenadian rainforest: cocoa trees, banana plants, bamboo trees, cows, donkeys, monkeys – just a tiny selection of the beauty that is Grenada. These hashes are not for the faint hearted. We literally went up and down a mountain with our final destination, the Diamond Chocolate Factory.
The days that followed were filled with more chocolate tastings, lunches on the beach, fashion shows and bonfires. The morning before we left for the airport, we fit in a cooking class with Esther and Omega, the fabulous chefs at the True Blue Bay resort. My partner in our makeshift kitchen was none other than the famous Niamh Shields of Eats Like a Girl fame. The pressure was on to make the best Coconut and Chocolate Curried Chicken we could. Here is how it turned out:
Needless to say, we came home from the Grenada Chocolate Festival with our suitcases filled with treats and a new-found respect for the world’s favorite snack!
As promised, here is a link to the recipes for the Chocolate Homecare Remedies!
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NB: I was the guest of Pure Grenada and their hospitality was fantastic. I cannot thank them enough. Everything I write is, of course, my own opinion! Many of the photos were taken by the official photographer of the festival at the True Blue Bay Resort. If you need to know which ones exactly, please email me directly.