Belmont Estate Grenada

Next time you’re stirring your cup of hot chocolate or adding a few sprinkles of cinnamon to your cappuccino, a dusting of nutmeg to a favourite dessert, a dash of ginger to a fragrant curry or studs of clove to your Christmas ham, spare a thought for the origins of these exotic spices.

Take cinnamon, for example.  It comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree and those shiny brown nutmegs actually grow on trees. Chocolate, meanwhile, is the product of the extraordinary cocoa pod.

For an up-close and personal view of these and more, a visit to Belmont Estate in the hills of northern Grenada is a rare treat. Defined as an ‘agri-tourism experience’ Belmont has been a working estate for over 300 years. Many of its ancient buildings have withstood the test of time and the scourge of devastating hurricanes. In fact the history of Belmont Estate is replete with stories of triumph over adversity as the family-owned business was transformed into an integrated cultural, historical and agricultural project.

Today the raw products are harvested from the vast acres of ‘spice’ and cocoa trees and brought to the main facilities where they are processed using techniques that have changed little over the centuries: skilled hand labour, warm sunshine and fresh air.

Expect to see cinnamon being processed by skilled peelers as they carefully remove the outer and inner  bark to reveal the stem. The curled pieces, known as quills, are then placed inside one another to make long compound quills and these are placed on shaded drying racks for a few days and then into the sunshine to complete the drying process.

This hands-on process is also applied to the cocoa process which takes full advantage of the environment.  You might even be invited to join some of the workers as they walk among the fermented beans drying on large wooden trays.  This allows air to flow evenly through the beans and aids with the drying process.

How do the beans get their shiny look?   Nowadays this is achieved by commercial polishers, but in years gone by they were placed in large copper pots and workers danced on them!

Through its alliance with the Grenada Chocolate Company, the cocoa beans processed at Belmont Estate are used exclusively in making the company’s internationally acclaimed fine dark organic chocolate. A selection of the chocolate bars as well as delicious bon bons made by combining the rich dark chocolate with local fruit, nuts and spices are available from the Bon Bon Chocolate Shop.

But Belmont Estate is not only about cocoa and spices.  From their goat dairy comes fine goat’s cheese while a tour of surrounding acres gives an insight into tropical horticulture and organic farming.  A restaurant serving fresh local juices and typical Grenadian dishes is open for lunch and/or snacks every day except Saturday. A small museum traces the fascinating history of the past and present owners of the estate.  On certain days there is a craft market while the gift shop is well stocked with local jams, jellies, preserves and souvenir items.

The drive from St Georges on narrow and twisting roads is quite long but it’s a great way to get a glimpse of rural Grenada.  Don’t worry about getting lost, that’s half the fun and Grenadians are unfailingly helpful with directions and suggestions to get you back on track.

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