Photo courtesy of Dionisvera via Shutterstock
It’s not just savory dishes that Saint Lucia is known for. Moving on to Saint Lucia’s sweeter side, I was able to sample something I truly had a handle on, both home and away: chocolate. Saint Lucia goes beyond selling locally-made bars, but also offers bean-to-bar tours, plantation tours, chocolate hotels, chocolate spas, cocoa classes and decadent fudge-laced desserts.
As goes The Story of Chocolate, cacao was first grown by the ancient Aztecs and Mayas — it was the “food of the gods,” after all — who consumed it without sweetener. When Hernando Cortes and the Spaniards arrived in Mesoamerica, enjoying cacao with Montezuma himself, they were able to bring it back to Spain, where sugar was added and from where it was able to spread to the rest of Europe.
According to the International Cocoa Organization, the British, who also held control over the island at certain times in the 18th and 19th centuries, introduced cacao to St. Lucia in 1660, where the island’s high temperatures, sufficient rainfall and nutrient-rich soil have allowed the bean to grow plentifully. Soon, it became a major export shipped to Hershey, Pennsylvania (sound familiar?) and Europe. Today, it is enjoyed in abundance, with cocoa pods sprouting from trees all over the island, where most of it stays.
And this isn’t just any chocolate. St. Lucia’s chocolate is often touted as the “Champagne of Chocolate,” known for having a less sweet and more savory yet not bitter taste.
Along with the chocolate industry providing jobs to a large portion of the island’s population, locals today enjoy chocolate through the popular cocoa tea. Originally created by newly-freed slaves who wanted a cheap alternative to tea leaves and coffee beans, cocoa tea came to symbolize freedom, independence and capability.
Cocoa and cinnamon for Cocoa Tea. Photo courtesy of alb_photo via Shutterstock.
While called tea, the drink is actually made by grating local cocoa sticks into hot water, although sometimes leaf tea is also used as a base. Like with Green Fig & Saltfish, what you get when you order depends who makes it, the consistency can be light or heavy, delicate or rich.
According to Emerald Estate, part of Jade Mountain, the chocolate culture has not changed much over the years — aside for the absence of the barefoot “cocoa- rina” dance to polish the beans. That being said, certain tours will offer the chance to see it performed, such as Fond Doux Holiday Plantation, allowing visitors to step back in time to St. Lucia ancient chocolate heritage.
One look at all the chocolate plantations, many of which offer tours, classes and onsite experiences, on Saint Lucia and you’ll quickly realize the culture is still very much alive. These plantations make the local chocolate from bean-to-bar, starting with the picking of the raw cacao beans before sun-drying them on mats. From there, the beans are polished, roasted, ground and “conched,” a process that gives the chocolate its essential snap and shine. Finally, the product is molded into bars and treats.
Photo courtesy of Alena Ozerova via Shutterstock
Recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate Rum Mousse via Jade Mountain in Saint Lucia
- 12 oz Bittersweet chocolate
- 2 Tablespoon Spiced gold rum
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Granulated gelatin
- 2 Oz Espresso
- 1 Cup Whipped cream
To prepare chocolate: On top of a double boiler, combine chocolate, rum and butter. Melt over
a barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove from heat while a couple of chunks are still
visible. Cool, stirring occasionally to just above body temperature.
To finish the chocolate: Pour remaining espresso into a metal measuring cup and sprinkle in the
gelatin. Allow gelatin bloom for 10 minutes. Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup
over a low heat. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir mixture into the cooled chocolate
and set aside.
To prepare the mousse: In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks. Stir 1/4 of the
whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream
in two batches. There may be streaks of whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not
over work the mousse.
To serve: Spoon into martini glasses and chill for at least 1 hour. Garnish with chocolate swirls.