Grenada’s Belmont Estate: 7 steps in traditional chocolate making
Belmont Estate has an elegant serenity to it. I loved learning about the chocolate making process as much as I loved eating their delicious bars.
Set in beautiful surroundings, the Belmont Estate is an authentic and breathtaking 17th century plantation where tourists can learn about and participate in the workings of a traditional plantation.
As a lover of all things chocolate I always enjoy a visit to the Belmont Estate in Grenada.
This was my third visit and I loved the experience of learning the art of chocolate making, sampling and buying each flavour to take home to your loved ones.
(Well…. that was my intention…. but I may have, perhaps kept the choccies and ate it all before I got back to London…. Don’t tell my mom!)
The drive from True Blue Bay Boutique Resort to the estate took about one hour and is so peaceful and tranquil: windy roads, passing nutmeg trees, cocoa trees and many well kept allotments next to quaint homes, painted in a multitude of colours.
Arriving at the Belmont Estate at lunchtime was great timing. Impeccable service, a wide variety of delicious Caribbean food and an assortment of fresh produce on the salad bar was the perfect start to my afternoon.
Afterwards, I was looking forward to exploring the grounds and embark on the journey of traditional chocolate making of which I am excited to share the step by step process with you.
Step 1. Harvest the cocoa
After the cocoa pods are snipped off the trees and cut in half, the beans are taken out and placed in buckets to be transported to the fermentation points.
(Make sure you taste the white flesh around the beans, it’s so delicious)
Step 2. Fermentation
This process takes about 7-8 days. The beans are placed in fermentation boxes and covered with jute bags and banana leaves, the beans are turned every couple of days to ensure even distribution of heat, after which the white flesh disappears from the beans.
Step 3. Dry and “walk” the cocoa
Once the fermentation process is complete, the beans are moved outside and transferred onto large wooden trays to dry in the sun for a further week. During this time the workers walk through the beans to aid with the even distribution of the airflow between them.
Step 4: Polishing or “dancing”the cocoa
In the past, the next step was the polishing process where all residual pulp particles were separated from the beans, leaving them smooth and ready for processing. Traditionally this was done inside large copper pots where farmers would literally dance on them as part of the polishing process. (This is no longer done today)
Step 5: Grinding and flavouring
This part of grinding and flavouring process becomes the unique and personal recipe of each chocolate brand.
Step 6: Aging the chocolate
After the chocolate is taken out of the grinder, it is aged. From the grinder the liquid chocolate is poured into containers to solidify, after which it is wrapped and carefully placed in the Aging Room for a minimum of 3 months. During the aging process, the fats separate from the solids which helps to achieve that distinct smooth and delicious flavour.
Step 7: Tempering
Tempering is the process of heating and cooling the chocolate to get it to its smoothest consistency and trust me, Belmont Estate chocolate is indeed very smooth, it just melts in your mouth.
And so, chocolate, which was once reserved for the European nobility, has over centuries become an unmissable aspect of most people’s kitchens (and handbags). It was fascinating to have such a wonderfully well-preserved plantation provide an agro-touristic experience, learning the traditional process of chocolate making in Grenada.
While you are on this tour, I recommend taking the opportunity to visit the Nutmeg Factory in Gouyave and end your day with a splash in the Concorde Waterfalls, which are all relatively nearby.
If you can’t get enough of chocolate, visiting Grenada in May during their annual Chocolate Festival is a must. This 9 day festival is a carefully curated schedule of events, celebrating all things chocolate from its culinary journey to health and wellness benefits, chocolate crafts and fashion.
So there you have it, how can I feel guilty for eating 2 bars on chocolate that day? Belmont Estate is certified organic and I indulged on the ‘dark chocolate and sea salt’ bar…. Which basically makes it medicinal! Surely?!
(Special thanks to Dwain Thomas for his beautiful photography)