Chocolate. We love it. We also love Grenada. It’s no coincidence that the island, on top of being known for its beauty and spices, produces some truly delicious examples of cocoa confectionary.
We wanted to find out more about life on the island and all things chocolate, so we spoke to Shadel Nyack Compton at one of Grenada’s finest chocolate producers —Belmont Estate.
Hi Shadel, thanks for speaking to us. Tell us a little about yourself and Belmont Estate to get things started.
I’m a real Caribbean girl, born to a Grenadian mother and St. Lucian father. Though I was born in London, we returned to Grenada when I was a toddler, where we stayed with my great aunt and uncle on Belmont Estate. My brother and I enjoyed life, taking every opportunity to explore the fields, the river and the cocoa orchards! I learnt the processing of cocoa very well, since that’s just what we did here.
The Belmont Estate has been through a lot in the past, and it became a passion project to see it return to its former glory. It’s now an exciting destination for tourists in Grenada, where they can get a glimpse into the island life of yesterday. Visitors will get an authentic sense of the rustic and be able to relive the past through our heritage museum, farm and our tours. We’ve transformed the place from growing clean, healthy produce to also showcasing cocoa and spices, exotic animals and, of course, the chocolate-making process. This is where the concept of agri-tourism on the island was born.
So you’ve lived on the island almost your entire life — what would you say are your favourite things about Grenada?
I love the natural beauty of our island. I love that we can leave our doors open, walk barefoot and eat organic fruit and vegetables right off the tree. I love the balmy weather and enjoy river escapades, beach limes and mountain walks to relax or invigorate me in my spare time. God has blessed Grenada with abundant trees, verdant hills, and spices that grow in the volcanic, mineral-rich soil. I love that I can enjoy Mother Nature’s raw beauty every waking day on our island.
Please tell us more about the chocolate-making process.
What a transformation from cocoa bean to chocolate bar!
Grenadian tree to bar chocolate-making process starts with the careful harvesting of cocoa pods from the cocoa tree, which need to be done without damaging the branches or the trunk. The pods are then carefully cracked using a cutlass to get the beans without damaging them. The white beans are then removed and placed into cocoa baskets before being transferred to the fermentation area.
The cocoa beans are fermented for 5-7 days and sun-dried for another week. The beans are then hand-sorted to ensure a high quality. We use small, traceable batches of cocoa to make sure that only the finest beans are used for our chocolate. The beans are then roasted, cracked and winnowed, and then carefully ground and mixed for three days to create delightful chocolate.
Belmont Estate chocolates are aged for three months to accentuate the rich cocoa flavour and release the astringency. This allows the natural fruity notes to ascend. The chocolate is finally tempered to utmost precision to ensure the smoothest and most luxurious finish. All that’s left is to mould and wrap the chocolate, ready to be enjoyed by our customers.
What’s a can’t-miss thing to do on the island?
You must visit Belmont Estate, naturally. You’ll learn about our fine cocoa and the chocolate making process, from tree to bar. You’ll appreciate your favourite chocolates all the more when you see how it’s organically produced and how much care goes into one bar of Grenadian chocolate.
There’s a chocolate festival every year — what’s so special about the event?
Guests receive an immersive experience of the island’s cocoa and chocolate industry with workshops, tastings, visits to local cocoa farmers and chocolate makers; all while enjoying a Grenadian twist to chocolate and cocoa products. It has everything — food, drink, fashion, art, kids activities and, of course, lots of chocolate!
Complete this sentence - “Grenada is ideal for a holiday if you’re looking for…
beaches, dancing waterfalls and healing hot springs. Classy restaurants or “liming” spots, cultural and food festivals, sunsets and sunrises, rest and relaxation or pure adventure. All of this while basking in naturally beautiful surroundings with amazing views and a warm, friendly people.
Any final words for people who might think the Spice Isle is an option for their next holiday?
Grenada is truly a gem in the Caribbean. We have a lot to offer, particularly agri-tourism, romantic locations, exquisite hotels and of course, our world famous Underwater Sculpture Park. The Spice Isle is a paradise of unique experiences for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and curious explorers alike.
Oh, and one last thing… What’s your favourite chocolate?
I may be biased, but I really do love our own Belmont Estate “Pure Grenada” fine flavour chocolate. Its 60% dark chocolate, with a delicate blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and mace; showcasing the authentic flavours of Grenada. It really is just the best!