In “A Chocolate Tour of the Caribbean,” Baz Dreisinger speaks about being steeped in chocolate for days on end on the island of St. Lucia and the wonders of a “chocolate tourism” of sorts, or “choco-tourism.” The author waxes poetic on the excitement and luxuriousness of exploring the world of cocoa production on four islands: Trinidad, Tobago, St. Lucia, and Martinique. Here are just a few excerpts of a long, detailed, and mouth-watering article:
For three decadent days, I had been eating chocolate-stuffed liver pâté, cocoa-encrusted kingfish and, for breakfast, cocoa-and-cashew granola. At night I drank cocoa Bellinis. I indulged in a cocoa oil massage, hiked through cocoa fields and created my own chocolate bar. Dawn consistently carried the pungent aroma of cocoa trees, because I was staying on a verdant cocoa estate — and sleeping in a cocoa pod.
Well, sort of: Hotel Chocolat, a boutique property in St. Lucia, features not rooms but “luxe pods,” where even the magnificently minimalist décor (rich mahogany floors, ivory-colored bathroom with open-air shower) evokes the essence of chocolate. Hotel Chocolat’s union of tourism and agricultural development, specifically its devotion to all things cocoa, is part of a budding movement across the Caribbean. You might call it choco-tourism.
From Tobago to Dominica, Grenada to St. Vincent, the Caribbean cocoa industry, which has roots in colonial times, is being revitalized. This is excellent news economically: With free trade having all but destroyed the islands’ banana and sugar industries, fair-trade farming initiatives are a welcome boon.
And it’s hardly small-change news; the world price of cocoa nearly doubled from 2004 to 2008, with an even greater increase for the rare genre of bean the Caribbean is feted for: fine-flavored cocoa, which makes up just 5 percent of the global market. What grows in the Caribbean is the Champagne of cocoa. It even has its own promotional team: the two-year-old Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum, a European Union-financed networking vehicle working to bolster production and exports in nine countries. And then there is the tourism connection. Aficionados flock to Napa or the Loire Valley for wine tasting; why not go to stunning island locales to indulge in sun, sand, sea — and chocolate?
There is already, after all, a chocolate-themed Caribbean holiday offered by Silversea Cruises. In Belize, the annual Toledo Cacao Festival celebrates the cocoa-driven culture of the Mayan, Garifuna, East Indian and Creole people from the Toledo district. In Dominica, visitors can stay in the boutique Cocoa Cottage hotel; they can tour the Agapey Chocolate Factory in Barbados. The Grenada Chocolate Company pioneered the trend in 1999, offering tours of its factory, farm and Bon Bon Shop in the island’s rain forest.
Earlier this year I followed the cocoa trail across four islands and three languages. Not only did it forever spoil Hershey’s for me, my tour also proved to be an eye-opening journey through settings both rustic and grand. It carried me beyond umbrella-studded beaches to far-flung fields, untouched island landscapes and a local culture with a legacy well worth witnessing. [. . .]