The legends of the Grenada Chocolate Company
Since joining the Tres Hombres as a trainee two trips ago, I’ve been hearing stories about the Grenada Chocolate Company, the amazing people who work there, and the delicious chocolate they make. But for two years running the ship hasn’t made it to Grenada, and so for me the legends of the Grenada Chocolate Company just grew more legendary. But this year our schedule included a stop on “the Isle of Spice,” and yesterday I finally got to see the place I’d heard so much about.
We made a hilarious gaggle in the morning, fourteen rag-tag Tres Hombres crewmembers (most often recognized by the tar stains on our shirts, holes in our pants, paint on our skin, and general olageanous aura of dirt and sweat) wending our way purposefully through the morning crowds at the bus station, studiously ignoring all the men with dollars in their eyes trying to sell us taxi rides, determined to take the bus. And what a bus ride it was! The buses here are what North Americans would call mini-vans, with somehow seats for 17 people tetris-ed inside. Up, up into the mountains we went, the air growing cooler and the greenery more lush with every jolt and roar of acceleration. Driving in the Caribbean is the only thing they do fast, and it’s amazing how such a laid-back culture can produce such unbelievable drivers—as in, it’s unbelievable how fast they go, accelerating down mountains and around switchbacks with nary a guardrail in sight. I at least arrived to the factory with my hair significantly raised.
It soon settled down, though, in the calm surroundings of the factory, a brightly-painted house on a mountainside in jungly surroundings, with sheep and lambs grazing among bananas, papayas, nutmeg trees, pomagranate bushes, even coconuts. The air is clear, up out of the valley, and full of low-hanging clouds that brush the mountaintops. It’s the dry season now, but you can tell how rain-foresty it would become in the summer. Edmond, one of the three original starters of the company, let us hang out in the shade of the solar panels, use the factory wifi (what a treat for sailors!), and brought us out thick slabs of new-made chocolate to munch as we waited for our tour. It was amazing how small the factory was, for the amount of chocolate they produced. Just a few people and some big old machienery turn out thousands of bars every day, which they sell here on the island, and ship all over the world.
At a certain point, Willie the farmer showed up in a rattletrap old blue truck that all of us piled into the back of for a short ride down the road to the cacao farm that the factory owns. He hiked us into the forest up the hillside, where the little cacao trees grow among oranges, mangoes, bananas, even cashews, all of which are there to provide shade for the cacao, and food for the farmers and neighbors. They don’t sell the fruit—they just share it among themselves, and the cacao is the cash crop. Every other week through the high season, the farm workers harvest the ripe cacao pods, cutting them down from the trees with long poles, and slashing them open to empty the contents into bags, which are carried down the hill and taken over to the fermentation sheds, where the white fruit surrounding the beans is rotted away, and the beans are dried in the sun. Willie gave us tastes of the white cacao fruit, sweet and spicy and ever-so-faintly reminiscent of chocolate. From there the beans are taken to the factory, not more than 2 kilometers away. It doesn’t get more bean-to-bar than that, and you can taste the care taken in every sliver of Grenada Chocolate Factory chocolate, thick and rich and as multi-spiced as the island it comes from.
It was beautiful, the whole day, from the climb into the mountains to the wonderful people we met at the factory and on the farm. I’m happy to be carrying that chocolate in our hold now, across the wide ocean, with all the stories along with it.
The award winning chocolate will be available in our webshop after crossing the ocean to Europe!