Cocoa Bean to Chocolate Bar

2008 my husband and I got married. We traveled to Saint Lucia for our honeymoon. Within that week we made a pack that every 10 years, we will return. So in 2018 we returned as we promised to each other. We stayed at a different resort, then from where we honeymooned. On one of the days, we hired a driver, who showed us the island inside and out and learned more in-depth of the Saint Lucian culture. He also showed us more of the Island this time around then we did in 2008 for our Honeymoon.

2008 Saint Lucia Honeymoon
2018 Saint Lucia, 10 Year Wedding Anniversary

During our stay this time around we decided to do a Bean to Bar history/culinary experience you could call it. Now your probably sitting there asking yourself what is Shayne, talking about? So let me tell you. We went to a Rabot Estate Cocoa Bean Plantation, and learned everything about the Cocoa Bean straight to the Chocolate Bar. Not only did we get an amazing history lesson, we also got a full on workout, by actually making chocolate by hand. The way chocolate was made, before machines were invented.

We learned about the bean which is actually a fruit. So the next time you eat chocolate, remember the calories don’t count since, your eating a fruit.

So let me walk you through our whole experience. I can still remember every detail. It honestly was the best. We first learned about the Trees, how they grow. We took a walk through the rainforest a bit and saw all the Cocoa trees. We saw the different pods and colors and learned when they were ready to pick.

Once we got a tour of the mature trees and beans, we headed over to the Nursery. We learned the process of the actual bean to nib. When they open up the bean, there is a white mucus like fruit around the bean. It is a little sweet lemon flavor with a hint of bitter cocoa. The white part is also cocoa butter. But we didn’t learn how to make that.

Inside the bean pod

Once they open the pod, they scoop out all the beans. The beans are all placed in large wooden containers and banana leafs are placed over top. The fermentation process is now beginning. Which takes up to a week, until they are ready for the next step.

Fermentation process

Once the fermentation process is finished, the beans are placed in the sun to dry out.

Drying process

In Saint Lucia, they had one lady who picked out every bean and opened each bean up to get to the cocoa nib.

What the bean looks like dried out, before opening it up to get to the nib.

Next what we did is we graphed our own tree. A tree if we want we can watch grow online. Neither Daniel, nor I had ever graphed a plant before. So this was cool as well.

Our Cocoa Bean Tree

After we planted the tree, we headed for a little stroll towards an area further into the rainforest. There was a little deck area with a long table. On the table there was a scolding hot mortar and pestle for everyone. There was a little jar of cocoa butter, little jar of cocoa nibs and small jar of powdered sugar. There was also a little brick like mold tray.

What we then did, was place all the cocoa nibs into the hot mortar and began smashing them and mixing them vigorously for almost an hour. Just like the Mayans did it, before machine’s. Let me tell you this was no feat. Not only was the mortar hot, but it was so hot and humid, that you were dripping in sweat. But it sure was fun.

Once we had the nibs all ground and smoothed to our teachers liking, we added the last ingredients. The next ingredient we add, was the cocoa butter. This helped smooth out the chocolate and made it become more of a liquid form. Once that happened we then poured in the amount of powdered sugar to make it as sweet as we want. However we could only take it to 75% dark chocolate. I think Daniel took his all the way to 75% and I took mine to 90% if I remember correctly. Everyone then poured their chocolate liquid into the bar mold, and our teacher froze it for all for them to set.

I can honestly say, this was one of our most enjoyable hands on culinary experiences we have ever had. The amount of time, energy and the history we learned was unbelievable. If you ever get to Saint Lucia you need to do Bean to Bar. You will not regret it. Thank goodness Daniel and I love Chocolate sooooo much. Otherwise this would have been a waist of time. It taught us to appreciate chocolate even more so.

After we put in all our hard work it was time for lunch. We made reservations at the hotel restaurant for lunch, prior to our trip. Everything on the menu has chocolate of some way or another incorporated into the dish. Plus their cocktails were out of this world. All made with fresh Cocoa.

It was an adventure to remember.

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