Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grenada Tour - "Tree to Bar"

When I think of the farming process to make one bar of organic dark chocolate (another product grown and made in Grenada) I feel guilty eating even one bite of chocolate.

Well... maybe not that guilty!

Cocoa beans are grown in the lush rain forests of Grenada and the "Tree to Bar" cooperative of the Grenada Chocolate Company produces organic dark chocolate in small batches on large plantations where all sorts of other trees grow in the rich volcanic soil, like banana and nutmeg, even sugar cane. Our tour guide, Kelly, entertained us with the history of Belmont Estate and its cocoa farming process.

What struck me as somewhat amazing is that cocoa is derived from small bitter tasting sliver-like bits that are processed out of sun dried cocoa seeds (which actually are larger than coffee beans). The seeds are encased in a pulpy (albeit slimy looking) white fruit which  grows in a large pod that hangs from the cocoa tree.  In order for the chocolate flavor to develop the beans must ferment in their fruity covering. This is done in storage bins where the beans are covered with banana tree leaves. After about six days of fermenting, the seeds are dried in large "drawers" which are pulled out into the sun and the breeze. Today the beans are dried in a new passive-solar convection cocoa drier which looks kind of like a greenhouse. However, history has it that the woman farmers would shuffle through the seeds in their bare feet to help turn and aerate the seeds as part of this drying process.
I did the "shuffle" and now, I have some chocolate to eat!

To learn more about the chocolate making process check out this link: 

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