Saint Lucia (November 5, 2012) – In recognition of the role cacao and its beloved byproduct chocolate has played in its history – and current on-island experiences – Saint Lucia has declared November “Chocolate Heritage Month.” The month-long celebration will delve into Saint Lucia’s cacao roots offering travelers opportunities to experience the island’s rich heritage through plantation tours, exclusive chocolate-inspired spa treatments, specialty menus and more.
A newly created interactive Chocolate Heritage Trail map is available at https://www.facebook.com/SaintLuciaTouristBoard. Launched for Chocolate Heritage Month, it highlights key sites, offers and history to guide travelers through the island’s sweet spots.
“The history of cacao dates back to the early 1700’s when it was a thriving industry. Now, hotels and resorts are tapping into Saint Lucia’s heritage to create truly astounding chocolate indulgences for visitors, including hands-on agritourism experiences,” said Lorne Theophilus, Minister for Tourism, Heritage and the Creative Industries.
Leading chocolate connoisseurs at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat have focused their efforts to revitalize Saint Lucia’s cocoa industry. Through cooperative initiatives like the Engaged Ethics Cocoa Program, the resort employs more than 140 farmers on island guaranteeing purchase of their crops above the market rate to help stimulate growth of the industry. The resort has fully infused properties of cocoa and chocolate into every aspect of their business, from spa treatments to cuisine. Pioneered by Rabot Estate, a private plantation owned by Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, the “Tree to Bar” tour leads guests through the estate groves, selecting ripe cocoa pods to create their own chocolate bar. The tour is priced at $65 and for more information visit http://www.thehotelchocolat.com/experiences.html.
While the island has enjoyed a resurgence of cocoa and chocolate products, Saint Lucia has maintained its reputation as a top quality cocoa producer. In addition to Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, large companies such as World's Finest® Chocolate, based in Chicago, source cocoa beans from the Union Vale Estate in Choiseul, according to Theophilus.
The interactive Chocolate Heritage Trail map on Facebook provides details of participating hotels and plantations through pop-up technology, enabling travelers to browse the hot spots in Saint Lucia by simply scrolling their mouse over the icons.
Specialized cocoa tours are available at a variety of locations throughout the year including the Marquis Estate, Anse Mamin Plantation, Emerald Estate, Morne Coubaril Estate and La Dauphine Estate. At Fond Doux Estate visitors can take part in a tour and lunch package, which includes the ability to assist estate workers in the “cocoa-rina dance,” a technique used to polish the Cocoa beans before roasting. The lunch and tour package is priced at $30 per person and available from 11am to 2 pm daily.
The Chocolate Decadence Tour provided by Island Routes Tours every Wednesday sails guests on a luxury catamaran from Castries port to the Rabot Estate to take part in an all-day tour, creating delicious chocolate from scratch. A gourmet lunch with touches of cocoa is included followed by a leisurely afternoon at the Sulphur Springs’ mud bath. The tour is priced at $145 per adult.
Jade Mountain Resort will host its 4th annual “Discover Chocolate” festival this year from December 13 through 16. The four-day event will treat guests to an all chocolate-inspired menu, cocktail party featuring a chocolate martini and savory finger foods, a tour of Emerald Estate and a “chocolate” breakfast in bed.
“This annual festival lets our guests indulge in chocolate in so many tasty and unexpected ways, from specially created menus and culinary demonstrations to pampering and healthful spa treatments,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, Executive Director at Jade Mountain Resort. “All the chocolate used comes from Cacao trees grown on our plantations, Anse Mamin Plantation and Emerald Estate.”
Saint Lucian chefs have found countless creative ways to infuse cocoa into the cuisine, making it more than just a delectable dessert. The ingredient brings a unique taste to the table, playing off both savory and sweet flavors, with added health benefits, like the power to increase serotonin levels and fight heart disease. Boucan by Hotel Chocolat folds cocoa into even the smallest details of the dining experience, including cocoa grinders next to the salt and pepper mills on the dining tables to enrich the flavor of any dish. Boucan has designed complete menus which boast unique cacao dishes like Cacao Gazpacho and Tomato, Chilli and Cacao Ravioli.
“The concept of using cocoa in savory dishes dates right back to pre Aztec civilizations, but it can be heavy, like Mexican Mole. At Boucan by Hotel Chocolat we have created a contemporary 'cocoa cuisine' where we treat the cocoa like a spice, infusing flavors in an elegant harmony with other local ingredients. From our launch a year ago, every dish on our menu has a cacao connection - we are cocoa farmers after all!” said Executive Chef Jon Bentham.
Throughout Saint Lucia, chefs have developed distinctive dishes and uses for cocoa and chocolate. At Calabash Cove Spa & Resort the Pan Roast pork tenderloin on chick peas is covered in a chocolate powder rub. Coconut Bay Resort and Spa offers a "chocolate extravaganza" buffet for their guests on Sunday evenings between 9pm and 10pm to sample a variety of chocolates. The luxurious Cap Maison, located in the northern tip of the island, offers a “A Study on Chocolate:” a special dessert of mixed chocolate recipes engineered by Executive Chef Craig Jones of the Cliff at Cap restaurant.
A popular hot beverage on Saint Lucia, particularly on Sunday mornings, is cocoa tea made from freshly grated cocoa sticks. Food vendors at the Castries market, in the heart of the capital city, steep bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg and grated cocoa sticks together in huge pots all day to serve to customers. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 6 am to 5 pm.
Cocoa has also become a popular spa ingredient as its natural properties help stimulate endorphins, add minerals, and absorb anti-oxidants. Chocolate-themed spa packages are available at several locations on-island including the Chocolate Package, priced at $120, at Ti Kaye Village Resort & Spa which includes a Chocolate Body Scrub, Chocolate Wrap and Chocolate Massage. Kai En Ciel Boutique Spa at Jade Mountain Resort offers the Chocolate Delight, priced at $150, adding a mix of warm and cooled chocolate layers to revitalize skin. Chocolate Body Scrub’s are available at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, priced at $100, which uses Dead Sea salts, essential oils and 100% organic cocoa leaving the skin hydrated and the La Mer Spa at Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, priced at $75. CocoaJuvenate Spa at Boucan Hotel & Restaurant uses “NanoCacao”, finely ground cocoa from the Rabot Estate in the Cacao Facial at $95, the Cacao Massage starting at $50, and the Cacao Body Exfoliate at $90.