In this post we talked about our most memorable travel moments. It got me thinking about how it can be the smallest things about a trip that bring a smile to our lips and define that trip in our memory banks.
For example, as much as I loved everything about the wonderful resorts we stayed at in St. Lucia– and certainly standing in that infinity pool in our sanctuary at Jade Mountain was a high I’ll never forget– it was being out in the jungle with a naturalist who told us all about the local plants, the history of the island’s cocoa plantations, and introduced us to “Peppa” that really stands out in my mind.
No matter where my travels take me, I find it’s always the moments in which I’m closest to nature that really stand out in my memory banks. Or the moments that I connect with someone who is totally unique and epitomizes the essence of the place I am visiting.
Such is the case of our adventure in the jungles of St. Lucia with “Peppa,” a rastafarian who was chillin’ among the palms.
Our guide, Tyson, seemed to have a good level of comfort with Peppa (which I’m sure is a mutation of ‘Pepper’) so we quickly felt in the spirit of the discourse and welcomed Peppa’s comments from among the trees. The next thing we knew, Peppa came running out of the bush with a possum for us to see!
It seems Peppa had awakened the possum from his afternoon siesta, and the possum was in no mood to meet a couple of chocolate lovers from Canada. So after a bit of prodding, he hustled back into the bush.
Peppa chose to inspire us with more of his survival skills, and decided to show us how he could strip a coconut shell with his teeth! That was no easy task. We watched in awe as our rastafarian friend tore the coconut hair strip-by-strip off the coconut shell, and then cracked it open for us to drink from.
These proceedings made a lasting impression on both my travelling companion and I, giving us something to joke about and remember with fondness.
Have you had a similar adventure in your travels, when something most unexpected happened, only to take front stage in your memory banks of that particular trip?
Let’s share some travel fun, and then please join us back here the week of March 11th, when we’ll have our next new adventure.
“If you want to give your Valentine some real pleasure this Valentine’s Day/Week, give her chocolate. Really good chocolate.
It has been scientifically proven that eating chocolate releases endorphins in the body. Endorphins are chemicals in the body that make us feel good and give us an increased sense of pleasure. Those feelings are so strong in some of us that we experience what’s called a chocogasm: a near orgasmic feeling when we smell and taste fine artisanal chocolate, and allow it to slowly melt on our tongues. I think the picture below says it all.
I was surprised to see that the word “chocogasm” is actually in the Urban Dictionary. The definition shown is:
“eating high quality choclate and experiencing bliss like states of choc-erotic pleasure.”
Some chocolate facts to help you experience a more fulfilling Valentine’s Day/Week:
- Women need chocolate. Resistance is futile as we actually have a biological connection to chocolate. Read “Why Women Need Chocolate” by Debra Waterhouse, M.P.H., R.D. for more.
- Chocolate definitely makes you feel better (it is a mood enhancer and gives us energy) and many consider it to be an aphrodisiac. The presence of endorphins and the fact that chocolate produces dopamine, serotonin, and cannabinoid receptors in our bodies makes it nature’s best tasting “love drug.”
- Chocolate also has performance enhancing abilities. Many bodybuilders use nitric oxide to improve their body’s ability to excel. Dark chocolate contains a significant amount of nitric oxide among its 380 chemical compounds. Prolific lovers such as Casanova regularly consumed chocolate before getting intimate. Try it!
- When surveyed, 52% of women have stated they prefer chocolate to sex. Perhaps combining chocolate with sex will make everybody happy!
Any woman would love to receive a beautiful box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter.) I’ve seen none more beautiful than these from Roselen Chocolatier of Peru. They are created and hand-painted by Giorgio Demarini Basagoitia and his mother Elena Basagoitia Villavicencio of Lima. You’ll find more about them in this post.
Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day/Week filled with chocolate and love.
Please join us back here the week of Feb 25th when we’ll have our next new post. And if you haven’t already done so … please subsubscribe to this blog by clicking on the box at the right. Thanks!
Our time on St. Lucia was a week of utter chocolate bliss. As mentioned in the previous post, we had three glorious days at Hotel Chocolat Boucan, a boutique property owned by British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat and situated on the 140-acre Rabot Estate, the island’s longest-producing cacao plantation, operational since 1745.
We toured the estate with cocoa production manager, Cuthbert Monroque, who explained that unlike nearby South America, the biggest problem his cacao-growing team has to deal with is rats. Yes, there are so many rats trying to bite into the sweet pulp of the ripening cocoa pods that Monroque has had to establish a rat-drowning regiment to keep things under control. This photo shows how a rat chewed his way into a pod and ate the flesh and cocoa beans from within.
Another challenge for St. Lucian cocoa growers are mushroom spores, which spread the fungus that has been destroying some of the crop. As Rabot Estate is an organic property, no pesticides or fungicides are used.
The resort offers a “Tree to Bean” tour as well as a “Bean to Bar” tour to help chocolate lovers understand how cacao is grown and how the beans are harvested, cleaned, fermented, dried, and processed to make chocolate. We grafted seedlings and put our name on them so that we could return in future and see the cacao tree that we helped create.
Cuthbert makes a special tea that he uses to fertilize the seedlings, and that, combined with a special manure mixture help make the cacao trees strong and healthy. Grafting the seedlings helps reduce the time it takes for them to bear fruit. Without grafting it may take up to three years for a cacao tree to produce pods. With grafting, that period may be reduced to as little as 18 months.
We ground cocoa nibs with a pestle and mortar and saw them slowly turn into molten chocolate. It was a lot of hard work, but worth it to see the dry cocoa granules slowly turn to cocoa liquor, a liquid form of chocolate that we added cocoa butter and sugar to, resulting in our very own personalized chocolate bar.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Hotel Chocolat Boucan and St. Lucia for any chocolate lover who wants to learn more about the chocolate making and growing process while staying at a luxury resort with amazing cuisine.
Have you had a chocolate experience like this? Have you ever tried hand-grinding cocoa nibs and making chocolate from it? Please share your experiences and enthusiasm with us, and then join us back here the week of February 11th, for our next sweet post. As it’s Valentine Week, we’re sure to have something special just for you.
If you truly want to become immersed in the world of chocolate while visiting St. Lucia, there is no better place to be than Hotel Chocolat Boucan, a small resort of 14 deluxe rooms overlooking the mesmerizing Petit Piton on the southern end of this delicious Caribbean island.
Whether it’s “Cacao Cuisine” (a full menu created around the wonders of cocoa), the “Cocoa Juvenate” spa treatments that wrap and pamper you with cocoa-based products, or the “Tree to Bean” and “Bean to Bar” tours of the Rabot Estate plantation where cacao is grown and harvested, British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat makes sure all your chocolate dreams come true when you visit their Boucan Hotel & Restaurant.
Boucan is a boutique property built on the historic 140-acre Rabot Estate, where cacao has been grown since 1745, making it the island’s longest-producing cacao plantation. For the past 260 years, cacao has been grown and exported to various countries, who have been making delicious chocolate from it and selling it abroad. All that will change in 2014, as Hotel Chocolat is building a chocolate production plant on its Rabot Estate, where chocolate can be made right from the fermented, dried, and roasted beans in the Hotel Chocolat tradition.
I had the pleasure of visiting the British chocolatier’s Rabot Estate Bistro in Borough Market in London, met company co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell, and tasted a wide selection of Hotel Chocolat chocolate as well as a selection of its cacao cuisine. I knew I had to visit the St. Lucian property to complete the experience. I was not disappointed.
“Cacao Cuisine” is a fusion-style of cooking into which cacao/cocoa is used as a seasoning or flavour enhancement. It is never over-bearing, and provides a cocoa/chocolate essence to the menu as opposed to the more in-your-face style of chocolate cooking you might experience in a chocolate molé sauce popular in Mexican cuisine and various other countries.
At Boucan, crushed cocoa nibs are always on the table as a seasoning alongside the salt and pepper. I was really pleased at how the pure cocoa gently enhanced our food, and was totally blown away by the quality of the cuisine we enjoyed during our three-day stay. The full menu is online to tempt your taste buds. Every item we sampled was extraordinary.
My only complaint about our visit to Hotel Chocolat Boucan was that they didn’t have any of the extensive line of Hotel Chocolat chocolate products onsite for sale. I understand the logistics of why. Shipping it back from Britain where the cocoa is made into finished chocolate creations would make them cost prohibitive. Gratefully, that will change come June, 2014 when Hotel Chocolat’s St. Lucian chocolate factory will go into production. That will then truly transform this amazing property to the ultimate level for any visiting chocolate lover.
Please join us back here the week of January 28th, when we’ll take a closer look at the grounds of Rabot Estate, and the chocolate lover’s tours.
In the meantime, let’s talk! Have you been to Hotel Chocolat Boucan in St. Lucia? Are you a fan of Hotel Chocolat chocolate? Have you tried the St. Lucian chocolate they produce? Are you captivated enough by the idea of chocolate travel to book this culinary adventure for yourself?
a chocolate lover’s dream come true
There are many chocolate festivals and events around the world that are merely comprised of chocolate tastings and demonstrations. The Chocolate Festival at Jade Mountain is unique in that you actually get to visit the plantation where the cacao is grown, learn about the harvest, fermenting, and drying of the cocoa beans, and then eat the chocolate made from those beans — in addition to tastings, demonstrations, and a decadent menu sprinkled with delicious creations made using the cocoa and other fresh ingredients grown right on the resort’s own Emerald Estate plantation.
Being immersed in the world of chocolate on one of the world’s most beautiful islands? At one of the world’s most outstanding resorts? What could be better?
I’d been invited to the Chocolate Festival at Jade Mountain back in February of 2012 and after months of anticipation, was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the mesmerizing island of St. Lucia, stay at a multi-award winning resort, experience the culinary creations of award-winning Consulting Chef Allen Susser and Executive Chef Jonathan Dearden, and eat sumptuous chocolate locally grown and made. Last month I finally experienced the festival and it did not disappoint. The previous post introduced you to Jade Mountain as a sensory place to stay.
This post will introduce you to Jade Mountain as a place to celebrate chocolate, for afterall, the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to experience the world with chocolate travel in mind.
The Chocolate Festival at Jade Mountain kicked off with a cocktail party celebrating the dreamy choco-tini, a delicious vodka martini made with Bailey’s Irish Cream liquer and Emerald Estate liquid chocolate. The next morning we toured the plantation owned by Nick Troubetzkoy architect/resort owner/aspiring chocolate mogul, where the cacao (primarily the Trinitario varietal) and 32,000 pounds of tropical produce are grown annually. And we learned how to make the hot cocoa tea, St. Lucia’s blend of freshly roasted cocoa, ginger, lime zest, cinnamon, bay leaf, milk, and water. You’ll find cocoa tea served all over St. Lucia. Some places use nutmeg and vanilla in their recipes. A touch of citrus (Jade uses Star Anise) and cardamom can be added to make an iced chocolate chai tea — my preference to the hot cocoa tea.
chocolate delight for in and on the body
We also learned how to make chocolate delicacies such as Bittersweet Chocolate Rum Mousse, and Chef Allen’s own recipe for chocolate truffles. And we enjoyed the “Chocolate Delight,” the spa treatment at the Jade Mountain spa during which we were wrapped in warm and cool layers of melted chocolate and fed estate-made chocolates to take the experience over the top!
The menu in the exclusive dining room at Jade Mountain, the Jade Club, features a number of entrees with bold or subtle cocoa flavourings. The choice is yours. And delicious chocolate desserts. And if you want to bring the flavour and aroma of Emerald Estate Chocolate home with you, can you can purchase the highly aromatic small batch organic chocolate bars as well as the cocoa sticks (used to make the cocoa tea) in the gift shops at both Anse Chastanet and at Jade Mountain.
Stay tuned to the Jade Mountain website for updates on the 2013 Chocolate Festival as the dates have not yet been determined.
Have you been to a chocolate festival that blew your mind? If so, please share the details! And then please join us back here the week of January 14th, when we will continue to experience chocolate bliss on the island of St. Lucia.
As a travel writer, I’ve had the tremendous privilege of being invited to stay at some amazing places. But none, like Jade Mountain. What made this St. Lucian destination resort stand out from the rest? This series of pictures should answer that.
Walking into Sanctuary JE2, our home for four days, I succumbed to tears of joy. The anticipation of seeing this view in person was exciting enough, but living it every moment during our stay as part of the decor in our open-concept room was overwhelming to the point that I was brought to tears. And it’s not just a view outside of a window. There are no windows at Jade Mountain. The sanctuaries are built into the side of a hill overlooking the twin Pitons. Every public and private room at the resort has a stunning view of these captivating volcanic peaks.
But Canadian-born architect-owner Nick Troubetzkoy didn’t stop there. That incredible view wasn’t enough for Nick, rightly called a visionary by many. He included infinity pools with colourful tiles made from recycled glass in the sanctuaries. And an abundance of greenery as part of the decor inside the walls of the room in addition to all the lush greenery that surrounds and is part of the setting of Jade Mountain.
How did I get so lucky as to have been invited to have three butlers at my beck and call and the opportunity to enjoy the creative cuisine and enticing activities available at this award-winning property? Jade Mountain hosts a Chocolate Festival each year, during which time participants and guests can visit the Emerald Estate, where cocoa in addition to 32,000 pounds of produce is grown to satisfy the cravings of guests at Jade Mountain and its big sister beachfront resort, Anse Chastanet.
Having tried St. Lucian chocolate last year in London from British chocolatier, Hotel Chocolat, I knew this trip would be worthwhile if only for the chocolate. I had no idea the island would blow my mind with its warm and welcoming people, its natural beauty, outstanding culinary offerings, and yes, incredible deliciously dark chocolate.
Have you been to Jade Mountain? If so … tell us about your stay. Have you stayed at a destination resort or place where you were overwhelmed with emotion when take to your “room?” If so, please tell us where it was.
And then please join us here again the week of January 1, 2013 for more on St. Lucia and why it receives my vote as the world’s most exotic chocolate destination.
As I pack and get ready to attend the Chocolate Festival in St. Lucia this coming week, I’m pleased to welcome the first ever guest post on Chocolate Travel Diversions with Doreen. I met Patrick Huff in “Bloggers Helping Bloggers” (a subgroup of the Blog Zone group on Linked-in.) BHB is comprised of a terrific group of supportive and talented bloggers. Patrick asked if I’d be interested in exchanging posts with him, and so, this month he’s guest posting here to enlighten us about chocolate beers. And later this month, I’ll guest post over on his craft beer blog about how to pair chocolate with various libations — including beer!
Please welcome Patrick to our chocolate loving community. He’s agreed to respond to comments and answer any questions in my absence.
Chocolate Beer Demystified
Early on, when my fellow beer geeks and I were still learning our way around the beer aisle, we stumbled upon a beer called Mackeson XXX Stout, a chocolate lover’s dream. Chocolate had to be added in order to have this much chocolate flavor, or did it?
Chocolate beers have become so popular they were added as a category for the 2011 Great American Beer festival.
Many questions come up regarding chocolate beers. Are they all brewed with actual chocolate? What types of chocolate are used? When and how are they added to the brewing process?
Believe it or not, adding chocolate to beer is not a new idea. Patrick McGovern, an expert in ancient ales and Sam Calagione, the founder and president of Dogfish Head Brewery, collaborated on an ancient ale inspired from the analyses of pottery fragments found in Honduras. The fragments indicated an alcoholic drink brewed with chocolate, used to toast special occasions, dating to about 1,200 B.C.
But do all chocolate beers have actual chocolate? Surprisingly, no! Typically most beers that have chocolate flavor profiles have no chocolate at all. Brookland Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout achieves an intense chocolate character from using dark malts such as chocolate malt. Cool huh? But other brewers add different forms of chocolate to their brew such as Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, a sweet ale brewed with dark chocolate and chocolate essence.
Other forms of chocolate are sometimes incorporated into beers, such as cocoa nibs and cocoa powder. One example of using cocoa nibs is Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, a malty lager, which is aged on a bed of cocoa nibs.
A brewer also achieves his or her results from adding chocolate to specific stages of the brewing process. Chocolate can be added to the mashing process, the boil, the fermentation or the aging process.
While you may find quite a few chocolate stouts, chocolate also finds its way into other styles such as bocks, porters, brown ales and barley wines.
Indulge Your Chocolate Craving
The next time you find yourself in the beer aisle, look for these interesting chocolate brews.
Rogue Chocolate Stout from Rogue Brewery. A dark American stout with rolled oats, roasted barley, chocolate malt and chocolate. Creamy, medium to full bodied beer with sweet chocolate and coffee notes. Perfect for dessert.
Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout. A soft carbonated stout from Ontario, Canada. Pours dark brown with a creamy tan head. Lightly tart cherry flavor and medium chewy mouthfeel. Finishes with a dark chocolate flavor and pleasant bitterness.
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence. Cooperstown, New York. Opaque with a mocha head. Fruity esters, chocolate and roasted malt flavor. Medium body and softly carbonated.
Rogue Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale. An interesting ale inspired from Voodoo’s Memphis Mafia Doughnut, created as a nod to Elvis’ entourage. Made with more than a dozen ingredients, including chocolate, creamy peanut butter and ripe bananas.
Dogfish Head Theobroma. A light orangey ale with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs from Askinosie Chocolate, honey, chilies and annatto seeds. Subtle chocolate, chile, and sweet flavors with medium body and medium carbonation.
Thanks to Patrick for getting our taste buds pumping with thoughts of delicious chocolate beers. We have a fabulous beer named Stir Stick Stout made right here in Manitoba where I live. It’s made with chocolate malt and is one of the most delicious beers I’ve ever had. But they have a very small distribution at present. How about you? Do you know of any chocolate beers that haven’t been mentioned here? Do share, and join in the conversation. And remember to join us back here the week of December 17th, when I’ll be freshly back from the Chocolate Festival in St. Lucia. I’m sure there will be plenty of delicious stories to share.
No discussion of chocolate from Ecuador would be complete without visiting Quito-based Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate who won no less than nine International Chocolate Awards in the 2012 Chocolate Week competitions in London, England. Pacari won a variety of top awards such as Best Chocolate Maker and a number of awards for its dark chocolate bars which are USDA certified organic, Kosher, soy and gluten free, and Biodynamic.
What is Biodynamic chocolate, you ask? Pacari claims to have the only Biodynamic chocolate in the world and explains it as being an integrated farming system that views the farm as a living organism. All operations on the 200 cacao farms that are part of the certified Pacari group are chemical-free and designed to rejuvenate the farms through interplanting and preservation of cacao’s genetic diversity. It is the ultimate in sustainable chocolate.
Fortunately for chocolate lovers, the line of Pacari “tree-to-bar” chocolate bars are sold in 26 countries. They have a location in Sedona, Arizona that fills the orders for North America.
My favourite Pacari bar is the 70% Raw Chocolate with Salt and Cacao Nibs. ”Raw” means it is made from cacao beans that have not been roasted. The bit of saltiness with the crunch of the cacao nibs makes this a flavour-packed bar that is fun to eat and good for you and environment all at the same time.
Do you specifically look for organic chocolate when you buy chocolate? Are Kosher, soy free, or gluten free labels that you look for? Have you tried raw chocolate? Please let us know if you’ve tried Pacari dark chocolate from Ecuador and if you enjoyed it.
And please join us back here the week of December 3rd when we’ll have our next new post and the first-ever guest post on Diversions with Doreen.
It’s been fun sharing stories with you about chocolate in my neck of the woods, but I’ve got much more to share about our chocolate travels in Ecuador.
We explored Old Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in this post and got detained in a mudslide in this post. You met ex-pat (American) chocolatier Jeff Stern and Elizabeth Hendley, an ex-pat (Canadian) cacao grower and owner of the Chocolate Jungle Lodge in these posts.
Our last post was a salute to a Winnipeg chocolatier who really knows how to celebrate the season. Those chocolate turkeys are amazing!
Our post this week profiles the Widman Candy Company who has been making great chocolate in North Dakota and Minnesota in the northern United States since 1911 with the opening of a tiny shop in Crookston, Minnesota. A detailed story about Widman’s Candy Company can be found on my website in the story archives at this link.