BIG Chocolate, small Island

On such a tiny island many great things happen in the world of chocolate. After an enlightening and revitalising start to the  The Grenada Chocolate Festival, with cocoa meditation, cocoa beauty product making and an intense ‘hash’ through the jungle for the first official day, followed by a truly inspirational day two up at Zabuco Estate with Aaron from Tri Island chocolate, it was now time to get down to the business of cocoa. From the macro companies to the micro, past to present it was now time to discover the other influential cocoa growers of the Grenadian (and Caribbean) chocolate scene.

The guided chocolate tasting at Belmont Estate with Dr Sukha

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The Future of Grenadian Cocoa

Grenada is known as the Spice Isle of the Caribbean and is famous for its heady blend of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg that wafts around the island pretty much year round – you think it’s a myth until you are actually there, and it wraps you up in a fuzzy blanket of aroma as soon as you step off the plane – or was that the bug spray they doused us in before we left the aircraft? Anyway, what is still relatively unknown to many is that Grenada is also in the world’s top 10 countries for producing Fine Flavour Cacao – quite a feat given how small it is – see map below! It is also home to a very interesting man with very exciting plans for his ancestral cocoa farm!

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Chocolate Secrets of the Caribbean

After four long years I’m finally heading out to the Grenada Chocolate Festival, on the Caribbean island of Grenada (not the southern Spanish town of Granada – spelled and pronounced differently). My plane stops in Barbados for a few hours (it’s the Virgin Atlantic one and about £150 cheaper than the direct route or the one that stops in St Lucia to refuel), giving me just enough time to make a beeline for Oustins – a touristy foodie strip en route to Bridgetown frequented by burnt English people and pissed Aussies. As it turns out I’ve arrived for Friday Night Fish Fry, so it only seems right I settle for a grilled Mahimahi with rice n beans and fresh plantain, dressed with extra hot pepper and cocoa nib sauce and a rum punch to wash it down.

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Some of the best grilled mahi mahi I’ve had!

A little prop plane awaited my return to the airport, a drastic transformation from the jumbo I came over on, and in less than one hours I touched down in Grenada.

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Grow Your Own Chocolate

Since I’m fascinated with where food comes from, the next logical step in my ‘farm-to-table’ ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate adventures was to try growing my own cacao trees…in London!

It was a challenge, with the first hurdle being to get fresh pods back from Ingemann in Nicaragua through US customs. After enduring a good hours’ worth of questioning by a typically Texan border enforcement official, the pods were let through!

My cacao pod stash, on arrival at Heathrow!
My cacao pod stash, on arrival at Heathrow!

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A Northern Ireland Chocolate Quest

When you’re asked by the Academy of Chocolate to attend and speak at the Finnebrougue Fine Food Fair in Killyleagh Castle, Northern Ireland, courtesy of Food NI 2016 – the obvious answer to this request is ‘yes’.

The trip was all planned out by Food NI, and after an exhilaratingly turbulent 55 minute flight from Gatwick, I touched down in Belfast City Airport, greeted at the airport by Sharon Machala of Food NI – my chauffeur for the next 28 hours (this was very much a flying visit).

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A Little Bit of Culture

Whilst my trip to Nicaragua was predominantly based around cacao research, I did take some time to explore my surroundings, absorbing the beauty and culture this amazing country had to offer at every opportunity. Morning tortillas made by the roadside, hummingbirds in the city parks, and some really stunning churches!

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Before the Bar

After our foray into the Nicaraguan jungle in search of the ancient heirloom cacao, meeting with farmers along the way, it was now time to harvest the beautiful golden-red pods of deliciousness we had gathered. Have you ever wondered what makes chocolate taste like, well, often many more things than just chocolate? It’s not as simple as you might think.

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What puts the chocolate in chocolate?

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Settlers of The Far North

HOUHORA TAVERN

Now for a little history of Northland. The nearest harbour to Ngataki – Houhora Harbour was home to whalers and Dalmatian Gum Diggers (no, not the dogs, but people from the balkan area now known as Croatia, but this is also where dalmatian dogs are from). The old Post Office and Dance Hall next to Houhora Tavern date back to these pioneering days when the Dalmatian Gum Diggers were digging their fortunes of kauri gum burried below the surface of surrounding areas such as Waiharara, where the Gum Diggers Park sits now.

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The Edge of the World

We’re off to the edge of the world, or Cape Reinga – basically the ‘Lands End’ of New Zealand. In Maori “Te-Rerenga-Wairua” means ‘the leaping-off place of spirits’. This is the place where two oceans – Tasman and Pacific visibly meet in a violent exchange of boiling water (obviously it’s not actually boiling, but it’s still pretty frothy and choppy!) The Maori see this as the ‘male’ sea ‘meeting’ the ‘female’ sea.

The two seas having a meeting
The two seas having a meeting – you can see the froth of the waves in the distance

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Fishing in The Far North

No more driving around! So we’re going to go fishing instead! Aside from fishing a large wild gold fish out of a village pond in Swindon in the heady uni days of 2005, this will be my first proper fishing trip…in the sea! Hopefully I’ll catch something bigger! Not quite sure how I feel about having to kill these beauties tho, that will be the hard bit. Continue reading “Fishing in The Far North”