During our stay at Boucan on Saint Lucia, we decided to sign up for the resort’s Tree-to-Bar Experience. I mean, it seemed silly not to, being that we were on a working cocoa plantation and all. Truth be told, I usually opt out of tours when I’m traveling, preferring to see things on my own terms. But this was not that kind of tour. It was actually really fun, informative and not super touristy. I think most of the people in our small group were staying at the resort too. And yeah, I may have been swayed by the promise of making my very own bar of chocolate at the end, but it was 100 percent worth it.
The Tree-to-Bar Experience actually consists of two separate tours: the Tree-to-Bean and the Bean-to-Bar. We opted for both, cause we’re nerdy like that.
We arrived at the meetup spot, umbrella in hand, ready to get our learning on. The first part of the tour, aptly called the Tree-to-Bean Experience, takes you through the process of growing, harvesting, fermenting and drying the cocoa beans. AKA, everything you need to get those babies into chocolate making order.
We started in the cocoa groves where our guide explained the harvesting process as we checked out pods at various levels of maturity. They start green, then turn red, purple and yellow before they’re finally ready to be harvested. I won’t bore you with details, but I will say that it was pretty neat to learn the whole process. We even got to graft our own cocoa tree to be planted on site. Super smart on their part. A little free labor, a little push to return and visit your cocoa tree. I think it worked because I’m itching to go back.
The second part of the tour, and my favorite (duh!), is where we got super hands-on, making our own chocolate bar. We were each given our own pre-warmed mortar and pestle to work with and instructed to begin by adding the cocoa nibs. We worked pretty hard to grind them into a paste before adding the cocoa butter and finally the sugar (caster, I believe) to taste. Once we had the right consistency, we poured our chocolate into a mold and waited. Easy-peasy. OK fine, the waiting for our bars to cool so we could enjoy them was probably the hardest part.
Maybe it was the fact that my chocolate bar was made from 3 simple ingredients (seriously, mind blown) or maybe it was that I’d made it myself — either way, it was delicious.
We both had the best time on the tour and if we hadn’t taken it, I’d never know how easy it is to make your own chocolate. Which is reason enough in my opinion. And I’ve been meaning to make some. Guess I’d better get on that.