Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Getting our Chocolate Fix in Grenada!

Loving chocolate as we do, we were excited to find out there is a famous chocolate factory in Grenada! The Grenada Chocolate Factory is the smallest chocolate factory in the world! As part of our island tour of Grenada with Cutty, our Grenadian tour guide, we were able to see the chocolate-making up close.  Though the factory is small in size, the chocolate produced is large on taste.  

Photo Credit: Grenada Chocolate Company website
The Grenada Chocolate Company makes organic dark chocolate from bean to bar with cocoa grown by a farmer cooperative on the tiny island
of Grenada (tree-to-bar) that sells its cacao directly to the company. Rare Trinitario cocoa beans are grown by members of the Grenada Organic Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative. The cocoa trees grow on small farms in the rain forest, protected by nutmeg, banana and mango trees. Harvesting is done year-round as the cocoa pods are ready, and the beans go up the hill to the Grenada Chocolate Company's small solar-powered factory to be made into chocolate.

The first thing we noticed when we arrived was the tantalizing aroma of chocolate! We leapt out of the bus and ran toward the building, with visions of chocolate bars dancing in our heads.  

We were given a tour of the chocolate factory, located in a small house, by Edmond Brown, a chocolate maker and tour guide extraordinaire. Vintage and handmade machinery is used to meet the requirements of small-batch chocolate making, while solar energy powers the machines, including the ancient cocoa-roaster.

Here are the steps in the chocolate making process:

Credit: Grenada Chocolate Company website

We saw the process from the roasting phase to the molding phase, and more importantly, the tasting phase.

The process begins with roasting the cocoa beans. The roaster is an antique from Germany called the Barth Roaster.  The proper degree of roast is essential. Too heavy or too light a roast of beans will not produce tasty chocolate and the margin is small. Roasting cocoa consequently requires close attention and a keen sense of taste and smell of the roaster operator.

Next is the winnowing phase. Roasted cocoa beans are poured from the top floor of the house through a chute on the top of the winnowing/grinding machine. Winnowing is the process of removing the outer shell from the cocoa beans. The machine then grinds the cocoa beans.

Here are the ground cocoa beans which will be transferred to another room for the next process. 

Mixing with Sugar: Sugar is well mixed into the liquid cocoa using a machine called a melangeur. Both the sugar and cocoa solid particles are ground down smaller and smaller while more and more fat is released from the cocoa.  The sugar/cocoa mixture becomes smoother and remains a thick liquid known as chocolate “paste,” now ready for the refining and conching process to follow.

Refining is the final grinding of all particles in the liquid chocolate together to produce an even extremely smooth texture in which no grit can be detected on one’s tongue or pallet.

Conching is a long process of intense mixing, agitating, and aerating of heated liquid chocolate. During this long process various off-flavored, bitter substances as well as water vapor evaporate away from the chocolate. The long intense mixing action assures complete coating of every solid particle with cocoa butter, giving the chocolate a well developed and delicious flavor and texture.

The chocolate is now ready for the final phase of preparation. A machine called a tempering kettle has a built-in depositor that allows a set volume of chocolate to be delivered each time it is activated so the bars are consistent in size. The filled molds are placed on a vibration table, which shakes the chocolate for a few seconds allowing it to evenly fill the mold cavity and release air bubbles. Kimon Thomas, chocolate maker, is shown removing the molds to be placed on cooling racks to solidify. After about twenty minutes the molds are turned upside down to release the finished solid chocolate bars which are then wrapped by hand in our special packaging and put away to age.  It is very important to age chocolate for several weeks before selling because, as with most fermented foods, the flavors change drastically during this period. Chocolate takes on its full level of desired wonderful taste only after this aging period. Divine!

Finally, the best part of the tour... the chocolate tasting! Cutty, our island tour guide is shown setting out the various bowls containing chocolate. We tasted organic chocolate bars of 60%, 71%, 82% and 100% cacao, as well as 60% with nibs and 71% with sea salt.  It was fun to compare the taste all of the chocolates side by side. The 100% was very bitter and is used for cooking only.  I liked the 71% and the 82% the best.  The 60% with nibs had little bits of crunchy bits and the 71% had sea salt on the bottom.  Good, but not my favorite. 

Chocolate tasters in action! 

Cutty was a very fine tour guide indeed to include this delightful experience in our island tour! We plan to take a trip to the Belmont Estate to see where the cocoa is grown and harvested. Stay Tuned!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Hashing" in Grenada... What's it all about?

Credit: Grenada Hash Harriers website
I first read the word "hashing" when I read the blogs of friends friends Rene and Stacy (Pipe Muh Bligh) and Deana and Troy (Storyville) about their adventures in Grenada.  I thought “this must be a local term in Grenada for hiking” and I didn’t give it another thought until I got to Grenada.  I had to see what this “hashing” was all about!

I looked up “hashing” on the internet and found that it is a worldwide phenomenon! Hashing started in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur in what was then Malaya. It was conceived by three expatriate Brits who belonged to the prestigious Selangor Club (still standing to this day as a historic social club, fronting on to the cricket ground in the centre of Kuala Lumpur.)

The Club’s dining annex was derogatorily referred to as The Hash House (presumably because it served horrific British fare). The Hash founders wanted a sport which involved some energetic physical activity without getting in the way of their beer drinking routines.

So hashing was born, a fun run based on the Hounds and Hares concept - following a prepared trail through the stunning Malayan countryside.
Trails were set with flour and led back to a drinking establishment where merriment and irreverent camaraderie ensued. Today, there are Hash kennels in some 110 countries and territories around the world.

Some countries, like Britain, Australia and the US have over a hundred kennels each. Hashing has its rules, customs and traditions. Hashers have hash names, mostly ego-bruising or revealing personal shortcomings or peccadilloes. An international hash (InterHash) is held in a different part of the world every two years. This year’s InterHash is in Goa, India – over 4,000 hashers are scheduled to attend.

Hashing in Grenada

So Grenada has it’s own kennel… the Grenada Hash Harriers!  Participating in a hash is a great way to explore the beautiful countryside of Grenada and a great way to meet locals and visiting cruisers, and expats living in Grenada.  

Almost every Saturday, at 4:00 p.m., a motley group of assorted runners and walkers assemble at a previously designated rum shop, somewhere in Grenada.  There are fast runners, slow runners, fast walkers, and slow walkers. Guess which one I was in?? The slow walkers of course!

The trail is determined previously by a group of dedicated people (the “hares”) who map out the course for that week and lay a trail of shredded paper which marks the trail that takes the “pack” through some of the most attractive parts of the island.  Everyone runs or walks at their own pace, at their own risk, and with the knowledge of their own limitations. Some of the trails can be difficult. If unhappy about the trail ahead (usually related to unbelievably high hills!), one turn backs and follow the trail back to the rum shop.

Everyone returns to the rum shop a couple of hours later to consume large quantities of beer and undo all the good that this running and walking has done to them.

The hash for the Saturday I chose was Hash #842, Belmont Street, St. George's. It began at a small bar called Lucy's Snack Shop.  

Everyone arrives about an hour before the hash...milling around, regaling each other with memories of past hashes and waiting for the hash to begin.  At 4:00 p.m., the Hash Master announces the guidelines for the hash.  

One of the hash “hares”, Lynn, walked through the crowd and identified hashers that had on new shoes and asked that they remove one.  Before the start of the hash, the one-shoed hashers were called to the front of the crowd.  

Beer was poured into the shoe and the hasher had to drink it.  Thankfully I avoided this activity… I had on my well worn hiking boots! 

My hashing buddy was Libby Cross (s/v Peregrine).  We were evenly matched in fitness and we were among the slow walkers. Not the slowest, mind you, but we weren’t walking fast!  The hash began with a walk straight up a road, then we turned off on a muddy trail.  It was close quarters trying to hike up a narrow, slippery, muddy path straight up a hill.  It was hard to get traction because there were so many people back to back.  

Once we got off the narrow trail, we started a gradual uphill climb on a road.  Everyone began to spread out… runners started running and walkers began to walk at different paces.  The road got steeper and steeper!  

I did bring my camera and was able to get a few photos, but after about an hour, it was all about survival!  I only thought I was in pretty good shape!  It was hot, with no wind, and the hills were tough.  Libby showed me how to zigzag my way up the steep hills to make it easier.  

After a while on the road, we turned off into the countryside and hiked up to the top through someone’s farmland.  The view from the top was beautiful.  We stopped to rest and visited with the landowner, and kept going.

When we returned to the rum shop one and one-half hours later, Libby and I celebrated finishing the hash.  

Photo Credit: Brian Steele, Facebook

We hung out and watched the post-hash activities, which included spraying the “hash virgins” with beer (no, I did not reveal I was a virgin!).  There was a barbecue, plenty of beer, and good times!  

Photo Credit: David Cross, s/v Peregrine

My first hash was a success!  I plan to hash again as soon as I get a chance…. if I can walk after I recover from this one!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Carriacou Regatta 2014

Carriacou, a small island that is part of Grenada, is a charming little island located twenty miles north of Grenada just south of the Grenadine island chain. Known as the Land of Reefs by the original Amerindians, it has a strong Scottish and Irish heritage and seafaring is in the blood. The building of traditional timber sloops is undergoing something of a renaissance and Carriacou’s hugely anticipated Carriacou Regatta celebrated its 49th anniversary from August 1-4 over the Emancipation holiday weekend.  We were lucky to be there to enjoy the racing action.

Inaugurated by Jamaican-born John Linton Riggs in 1965 to help stimulate the boat building trade, the Carriacou Regatta has  developed into a popular event drawing sailors and visitors alike from Grenada, Tobago, Union, Martinique, St Vincent and from as far north as Antigua in a raucous festival of seamanship and fun sailing. The event attracts competitors from around the world with work boats, racing boats, sailing boats and yachts. However, the sturdy workboats remain the focal point today and are raced in four different classes up to 35 feet in length.  There are races beginning in Tyrell Bay, Hillsborough Bay, and Round the Island races.


Other sporting and cultural events take place on land and fierce competition is the order of the day. Rum drinking is king, with lots of local Jack Iron rum consumed. Everyone is involved... even the cruising sailors' dogs!  Here's our friends Stacy and Rene Foree with some local pups.

I had a fun day out on the Carriacou Fun Runner owned by Sherwin of Lambi Queen restaurant to see the racing action up close.



Dinghies ferried partygoers from shore to the Lambi Queen.

There was plenty of fun, food, and drink aboard the catamaran-turned-party barge.

The top of the party boat provided an excellent vantage point to watch the regatta and enjoy the sun.


Enthralled by the beautiful scenery and gorgeous boats, I took photograph after photograph of the racing action.

The next day, LA and I took a ride on the Carriacou Fun Runner to see the start of the races in nearby Hillsborough. We walked through town, and had a delightful lunch at the Moringa Cafe.

We saw the launch of many racing workboats along the shore. It was interesting to watch them roll the boats into the water using fenders and brute strength.


Click on the video to see a boat launching.

Here are some pics of the racing action from the regatta. A good time was had by all!