Grenada, known as the Spice island, is the southern most windward Caribbean island just off the main hurricane path, full of lush greenery, striking landscapes, beautiful beaches and wonderful people. I was invited to visit Grenada to attend the annual Grenada Chocolate Festival, an annual 9 day festival that takes place in May, the brainchild of Magdalena Fielden, who founded the event.
If you are a Chocolate lover, or simply intrigued about the Chocolate making process, The Grenada Chocolate Festival is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a week-long celebration of all things chocolate and there are so many amazing fun and fascinating activities you can do which range from enjoying a rum and chocolate pairing, making your own cocoa tea and chocolate scrubs to visiting cocoa estates and seeing the entire process from harvest until the production of the bar.
Our itinerary was packed full of fantastic activities and here are all my highlights to give you a flavour of what to expect and to add it to your radar for 2020!
Chocolate Fashion Show at Silversands Hotel
On our first evening, we visited the luxurious Silversands Hotel, where we watched the Chocolate Fashion Show whilst indulging on so many different types of Chocolates. There were so many incredible outfits and jewellery designed by local Grenadian designers created from batiks and soft tropical fabrics.
Self-care Sundae at True Blue Bay
On ‘Self-care Chocolate Sundae’ we started the day with some Yoga stretching with Yogi Malaika Maitland who led us through breathing exercises followed by a peaceful meditation to learn how to be more present in the moment and we were taught how to appreciate the texture, smell and taste of chocolate. I really enjoyed this as I rarely make time for this despite having bought a Yoga mat a while ago and so it really reminded me how rejuvenating and refreshing it was to just spend time on yourself.
We then indulged in a Chocolate Brunch at Dodgy Dock, at True Blue Bay Resort, by the waterside and took in all that wonderful fresh air whilst we enjoyed our meal.
One of my favourite activities on self-care Chocolate Sundae was the session we had with Magdalena on tasting with colour. Rather therapeutically we learned how to associate the flavours we perceived in the Chocolate from a colour depicted on a chart, and we then painted our interpretations on pieces of card.
At the end of the session it was so interesting to see what everyone’s different takes on the same chocolate was! Some even managed to mirror the colours of the chocolate’s packaging without having seen it before!
I have somewhat become addicted to Cocoa Tea and so was pleased to have a session with Sheba from OMI Grenada, who taught us how to make the blend for the Tea as well as a Chocolate scrub, which was also edible as it was all made from natural products. I also purchased her Whipped Cocoa Butter which not only smells divine, leaves my skin feeling so soft!
If the day couldn’t get any better, we were treated to poolside Cocoacktails (Chocolate Mojitos for the win), Pizza and listened to different stories about Chocolate at the new Rum Shop bar at True Blue Bay resort (which also has swings) whilst the sun turned the most insane shades of oranges, pinks and reds!
As they say a Sunday well spent brings a week of content and so it was the perfect first full day spent in Grenada and got me excited for what the week ahead brought!
Honouring Cocoa Traditions at Belmont Estate and tasting Chocolate Beer
I was so excited to visit Belmont Estate, one of the oldest cocoa farms in Grenada, to learn about the Tree to Bar (yes you read that right) process. You may be thinking, surely you mean Bean to Bar Binny, but no, in Grenada they go one step better and make Tree to Bar chocolate, which means that the cocoa is grown by local farmers on the same estate where the chocolate is also made.
This is fantastic as it means that there is absolute control over the flavour and quality of the beans to ensure that the final product tastes absolutely amazing! Grenadian chocolate is considered to be in the top 5% of the world and it is blessed to have Creola, as one of the varieties growing on the island as well as having the perfect environment to grow the Cocoa with rich volcanic soil and the abundance of both water and sunshine.
It also means you know exactly where the beans are coming from rather than large corporates who buy dried cocoa beans from various sources and so lose that quality control and also it may encourage unethical practices in the harvesting of the beans, such as child labour.
We kicked off with seeing how Cocoa Pods are harvested. Aren’t they just magnificent and a riot of colours?
The harvest is done using a long pole with a hook at the end and it looks easier than it actually is!
I had a go at walking through the beans and raking them and trust me in that heat it is pretty laborious and so something to think about next time you enjoy that square of chocolate – there is a lot that goes into it’s production!
Cooking with Chocolate
Led by local cooks as well as Masterchef semi-finalist Michelle Trusselle, we donned our aprons and cooked up a storm for our lunch using chocolate as an ingredient for our main course, ribs served with mash, which we devoured before assembling our own dessert with chocolate and mango under the guidance of Michelle.
If you love to cook I highly recommend this session as a way to get inspired on how to incorporate chocolate into your cooking.
Rum and Chocolate Pairing
At Silversands, in their exclusive Cigar room, we enjoyed a Rum and Chocolate pairing led by a chocolate expert, where we tried three different types of chocolate paired with a local rum. It was really interesting how the different chocolates brought out different flavour notes in the rum with each sip.
Michelle had also created a heavenly dessert paired with the rum using chocolate from Crayfish Bay, which went down a treat!
If you want to experience Michelle’s food try out her supper clubs! Find out more here. https://www.myristica.co/events/the-myristica-supper-club-july-event
Visiting Crayfish Bay
One of my favourite activities was visiting Crayfish Bay and hearing about the Tree to Bar chocolate process with Kim and Lylette Russell.
All the machinery used for the chocolate making process is made from recycled garbage that Kim put together at a fraction of the cost that this machinery costs if bought brand new. He truly believes in the Tree to Bar concept and gave us advice on spending our money wisely when it came to Chocolate and thinking about where the beans came from that made the chocolate that we want to consume, as in some parts of the world child labour is very much still in force and sometimes these are the beans that large corporates use for their chocolate production, further fuelling the demand for child labour and thus quite unethical.
The other advantage of the Tree to Bar process is the control over quality and it really does help separate the high grade chocolate from the low quality. A fun fact I learned is that in most cases flavoured chocolate is usually made with lower quality beans as the flavour accompanying it compensates for it.
If you do want to try some of Crayfish Bay’s chocolate in the UK they do supply their beans to Pump Street Bakery.
The grounds that Crayfish Bay is housed on are stunning and we went for a hike on the plantation to see how the Cocoa pods are harvested, as well as saw the oldest Steel bridge in Grenada, and the second oldest in the Caribbean. It was quite the hike in sweltering temperatures but it was so fascinating to see how so many different crops and fruits grew alongside the Cocoa Pods and influenced the flavours of the Cocoa beans.
We sucked some Cocoa from the Cocoa Pods as they cracked each one open and I loved the taste – reminded me a little bit of Lychees – not at all what you would think it would taste like!
We then headed back to the main estate and Kim talked us through the drying and fermentation process, the latter of which he said was the most important, and Lylette then told us how she grinds, stores and packages the chocolate. She pretty much learned how to do the process through practice and working with insanely hot temperatures she said she has to assess how to work with the chocolate on a day by day basis.
After an insightful talk about Crayfish Bay’s chocolate making process we then enjoyed a delicious lunch with a view and finished off with some Chocolate cake served with Chocolate Sauce and Cocoa Tea on the side. A truly indulgent and perfect day, as well as eye opening, and I for one will not be purchasing mass produced chocolate again and truly thinking about where the chocolate I consume in future comes from.
St George’s Market
I highly recommend a visit to the St George’s market to see all the wonderful produce on offer as well as to purchase some to take home with you either for yourself or as gifts. I left with a supply of hot sauces, nutmeg, cocoa balls and Nutmed, which I have heard is amazing for muscle aches and pains. My favourite stalls were Betty’s and Aunty Rubes, both wonderful women, and so if you do visit, make sure to pop by their stalls.
Because Grenada’s vegetation is so lush, the fruits are really juicy and I couldn’t help admiring all the fruits displayed at each of the vendors stalls.
As well as spices you can purchase crafts and home decorative objects here and a member of our group found some beautiful Calabash bowls.
Mojitos at Esthers Bar
I can vouch that they are incredible and the perfect refreshing cocktail to watch the sun go down on a absolutely wonderful island.
For local authentic food and the best food I ate on the island, BB’s Crabback is a must! Get the Crabback for starters followed by the Goat curry for mains and the Sweet Potato pudding for dessert washed down with a Rum Punch.
It is all just so damn good, especially the Crabback!
Where to stay
We were kindly hosted by True Blue Bay hotel in their new Cocoa Pod rooms, which were fantastic. I love that the hotel has such great environmental friendly initiatives and that it is an accredited Climate Smart hotel.
The rooms are large and spacious and have a lovely balcony and the Cocoa Pods have their own pool adjacent to them if you want a quieter pool to relax by.
There are other pools dotted around the grounds as well the Dodgy Dock, where you can enjoy cocktails, pizzas and other food. Breakfast is served here too.
There is an onsite gym, spa and yoga studio and my favourite spot was the newly opened Rum Shop bar, from where we enjoyed the most wonderful sunsets.
Find out more: https://www.truebluebay.com/
Getting to Grenada
We flew to Grenada with British Airways via a short stopover in St Lucia.
Currency in Grenada
You can use Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars or US dollars in Grenada.
To find out more about the Grenada Chocolate Festival visit their website https://www.grenadachocolatefest.com/
Have you been to Grenada? Let me know in the comments xx