Aside from the beauty of the hummingbirds and multi-colored bougainvillea in St. Lucia, there’s a hidden gem within this land. The Fond Doux Holiday Plantation in Soufriere is a cocoa bean plantation that supplies Hershey’s with 95 percent of its beans to make chocolate.
St. Lucia, the most mountainous Caribbean island, is known for the beauty of its flora and fauna. This includes two volcanic rock formations, the Pitons, as well as Sulfur Springs, where the latest volcanic action occurred a mere two years ago.
Aside from the beauty of the hummingbirds and multi-colored bougainvillea, there’s a hidden gem within this land that is part of the Lesser Antilles, and it involves royalty. Royal Highness Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, know about this chocolate spot, called The Fond Doux Holiday Plantation in Soufriere.
This cocoa bean plantation supplies Hershey’s with 95 percent of its beans to make chocolate. The process begins with a ripened cocoa pod whose fruit is laid out in fermentation boxes, turning the white beans to brown. Bacteria and yeast develop on the pulp surrounding the beans, causing decomposition to acidic vinegar. The process raises the temperature of the heap of beans that causes the color change and familiar cocoa smell. From there, the beans are spread outside on trays until they dry in the sun, a process that could take up to five weeks.
And then there’s the traditional cocoa bean dance, or “cocorina dance.” Performed to preserve and polish the beans to a bright and shiny texture, a young man climbs into a huge metal bowl (“chaudiere” in Creole) and rolls his bare feet over the beans before they are again laid on trays to dry. After about two weeks, the beans are cleaned, bagged and trucked for exportation.
All this happens at Fond Doux Holiday Plantation, where you can also stop for an indigenous lunch buffet of local fish, chicken, root vegetables, rice and vegetables, plantains and macaroni and cheese. Dessert is banana bread with chocolate drizzle, but that’s as far as the chocolate offerings go, since the bean is the last stage of production on St. Lucia. In fact, what you’ll taste is you crack open the cocoa fruit is something completely different — bitter, in fact, than when you open a Hershey’s bar. You wouldn’t like it until the Pennsylvania production house turns it into the addictive sweet concoction we all crave.
Within the plantation retreat, there are cottages for lodging, as well as a small gift shop, and for $5, you can purchase a cigar-shaped log of cocoa to create hot chocolate or cake. The log comes with a recipe booklet of which I’ll share two recipes, below. Visit fonddouxestate.com for more information. To view the cocorina dance, check out this YouTube video:
1 measure Crème de Bananes
1 measure Crème de Cacao
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons grated cocoa
Blend all ingredients together with crushed ice.
9 cups water
3 1/2 cups grated cocoa
1 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons custard powder or flour (optional)
Sugar to taste
Boil grated cocoa, cinnamon, bay leaf, nutmeg and water for about 10-15 minutes. Add milk and reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. To thicken, mix flour or custard to your desired thickness. Sweeten to taste.
Makes 8 servings.