Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dancing the Cocoarena

As if jaw-dropping tropical beauty wasn't enough, St. Lucia also offers one of nature's most important treasures--chocolate! Several cocoa plantations dot the lush southern part of the island. I toured Fond Doux Estate, a locally owned organic cocoa plantation in Soufriere, where I witnessed the cocoarena dance.

After the cocoa beans have dried, workers jump into a basin and dance on hundreds of beans. They swivel their hips and toss up their heels better than any of the "Macarena" girls. Besides entertainment, the dance polishes the beans and removes any blemishes.

The beans are placed in a drying bin and left to roast in the sun for 2-3 weeks. That's after the initial drying and fermentation period of 5-6 weeks. Only a small percentage of the beans make the cut to be shipped to Hershey's chocolate company in Pennsylvania.

Before they are dried and polished,cocoa beans are nestled in cocoa pods, covered in a custard-like substance. I sampled some of the fresh beans right out of the pods. They taste like lychee, with a slightly sweet, vaguely acidic flavor. You don't chew on them but suck them until the flavor evaporates.

After they beans have been completely dried and polished, about five percent are selected for roasting and then grinding with a mortar and pestle. The beans are grounded into a paste and then rolled into cocoa sticks,which are used to make the Caribbean favorite, cocoa tea. Cocoa tea is basically hot cocoa with a richer, more earthy flavor. After watching all of the work it takes to produce organic chocolate, I'll savor my gourmet chocolate treats all the more!


marina villatoro said...

Ok, I've just got back from doing a chocolate (cocoa) tour and they made the chocolate hand made for us. Unless they did a quick barefooted, stomp around in a huge cauldron dance somewhere out of our sight range, we had a completely different experience!

In comparison to this, ours was just plain boring:)

Anonymous said...

That is so cool!! I need to get out more. Or maybe eat more chocolate!

Fly Girl said...

Marina, I think maybe the difference is that this was an organic farm and they do everything by hand. They probably have machines to polish the beans, although I'm no expert on chocolate making, only eating!

Yvonne, I think eating more chocolate makes up for not getting out more!

A Cuban In London said...

Give me that 'chocodance' anytime :-).

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Beauty Is Diverse said...

Nice would love to see the process of making chocolate.

marina villatoro said...

It looks great! I wish I could've seen the whole process. I'm a sucker for these kinds of tours and adventures:)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A lot of chocolate addicts would volunteer for that job.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, I thought you might appreciate that dance!

Ebony, it's a very interesting process, not what I thought it would be.

Marina, I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets excited about tours like these!

Jean-Luc, I'm sure you're right!

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Chocolate makes me dance like that as well.....every time. Now....add a little brandy with the chocolate and I'm a party all by myself!!

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Fly Girl said...

Reggie, chocolate and brandy! I know there are extra special dance steps for that!

J.M said...

They used to boil sugar in those pots back in the day.