At Belmont Estate, they use a variety of fruit trees—mango, papaya, to name a few—to protect the cocoa pods from the heat. A serendipitous consequence of this is that the cocoa pods are infused with these flavors. When you taste the bean, before it is fermented/dried/roasted, you can identify many of these fruits right away. Once you get to the finished product, they become much more subtle.
Back to reality. Sigh. Will post some final thoughts on Sunday. For now, I wanted to share with you my experience learning about chocolate production in Grenada.
Chocolate has a long, dark history. For those of you that care to know about it. I’m not going to delve into it for this post, maybe at some point in the future. It is worth learning about. I wanted to focus on the process, from harvesting beans to creating a bar of chocolate that you purchase at the store. While in Grenada, we visited Belmont Estate. They focus mostly on cocoa production, though recently started to create their own chocolates. Belmont Estate boasts that they are tree to bar, and that is just the beginning.
Since it was off-season and I couldn’t witness a lot in action, but was still able to capture the essence of chocolate production that I learned in pastry school and have researched on my own. The biggest thing that I was able to see for myself was an actual cocoa bean, from how it grows on trees and actually tasting one.
Production begins with harvesting the pods. From there, they are fermented and dried. The beans used to be dried by the sun, but to make the process go quicker, they are also dried in greenhouse-like buildings. The nibs are winnowed off (the husk or shell of the bean is removed) and then polished and graded. Final steps are tempering and molding (into whatever final product it will become).
After my visit, I found a new sense of appreciation for the chocolate-making process. As a pastry chef, I’m so far removed from the beginning stages. It was great to have the opportunity to see the thought and science that goes into it. What happens at these cocoa farms determines much of the taste, color, texture, etc. of the final product we all recognize, taste, and enjoy.
Stay tuned for more…