Sunday, 12 July 2015

Grenada: Crayfish Bay - Cocoa Farmer for a Day (Bean to Bar)

On my recent trip to Grenada I was able to participate in a variety of events and activities to celebrate the 2nd Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival.  Although I really enjoyed the whole experience I think what really made my trip was the opportunity to be a chocolate farmer for the day.

The growers of the cacao who do all the work and hard labour to bring you the ingredient to make your lives immensly enjoyable do their job more as a labour of love than to get rich.  The cacao grower receives a low payment for their product which then makes its journey to far flung places to be made into the chocolate treats we know and love and which make a lot of profit for the manufacturers.

There are three main cacao farmers on the island of Grenada who produce fine, single estate chocolate and I was really thrilled to spend the day on one of these.  Crayfish Bay is run by English born Kim Russell and his wife.  Kim has formed a co-operative with his workers ensuring that they get 90% of the money he makes from the chocolate production which enables his workers to provide more than the basics for their family such as schooling and medical treatment but this wasn't always the case.  It took a vision and a lot of hard work bring together the local farmers and to build up the three main chocolate companies on the island; The Grenada Chocolate Company, Crayfish Bay and the Diamond Chocolate Company.

We arrived at Crayfish Bay early one morning during our second week on the island, equipped with bottles of water, hats and sunscreen, long trousers to keep the bugs off our legs and plenty of mosquito repellent.  Kim with his casual personality that hides a deep commitment to the island and the cocoa trade enthralled us with the history of Crayfish Bay, the work needed to look after the cocoa trees and the hard work that goes into the whole process.

Picking and processing the cocoa is a long and laborious process and one that cannot be factory mechanised and done in mass production.

There no neat paths to walk or pavements in the cocoa forest but gullies to jump over and uneven footing.
Kim explained the role of the banana plants to the cocoa. You see banana plants throughout and the reason is two-fold.  Firstly when the cocoa plants are young their roots don't go down deep enough to tap into a water supply so they use the banana plant roots to tap water from and then the banana is a faster growing plant and provides shade for the young cocoa plant until it is able to grow strong and tall.
A fresh water spring and a bit of shade, scent of nutmeg trees growing around you and the thought of the chocolate delights you will be making all add to the sense of tranquility and ideal life around you.
The cocoa pods vary in colour and are fairly large.  Mostly they are split open with a machete and then the inside white beans are pulled out and collected in large buckets.
The white covering of the beans is a flavour inhibitor and must be removed by putting in large bins to ferment for several days, leaving the cocoa beans to be dried and roasted.
Cocoa beans roasting.
A larger enterprise might roast them in stainless steel roasters but at Crayfish Bay the beans are roasted in small quantities and then laid out to dry in the sun
The cocoa beans dry in the sun. To keep them moving and to ensure they dry evenly workers 'walk the cocoa' with their bare feet expertly turning the beans without crushing the.
Crayfish Bay don't spend money on large industrial machines but in fact adapt existing machines to do a job.
Rumbling and shaking and suddenly the cocoa beans poured into the hoppa start coming out as a velvety, dark chocolate river.
On the day I was part of the picking team we picked twelve buckets of 'wet' cocoa and below you can see five of the twelve buckets that the two teams had picked. We really thought we had done well as our haul weighed 475 lbs and we were like rung out washing.  Kim quickly brought us down to earth with a bump - on a typical day his crew would pick approx 2,000-3,000 lbs of wet cocoa!  Nevertheless we felt proud of our achievement.
When we finished our 'work' we sat down on the open living room and drank freshly squeezed sweet seville orange juice which was followed by a huge bowl of Kim's signature Callaloo Soup with Dumplings and a fine buffet to help replace all the lost energy.
Crayfish Bay do not make any of their chocolate into bars for sale but instead ship their chocolate to a small, out of the way village in Suffolk to the home of Pump Street Bakery.
Set in the idyllic Suffolk country village of Orford Pump Street sell a selection of single bean, organic estate chocolates one of which is from Crayfish Bay in Grenada.
I made the journey to Orford to buy my chocolate last weekend to visit my daughter who lives in Ipswich which is a short drive away and I wanted to treat the grandchildren to a cup of hot chocolate and tell them the story of 'Nanny and the Chocolate Factory'!
Although Pump Street sell their chocolate online and offer a next day delivery service of their freshly baked breads and pastries I wanted to visit them personally and tell them how I picked some of the chocolate they would be selling in their bakery!
Once home the cocoa forests of Grenada seemed a long way away but the memory of picking, emptying the cocoa pods, traipsing up and down the steep hills, eating fresh mangoes and grapefruits will, along with the rest of the memories, stay in my mind forever!

I was a guest of Crayfish Bay Chocolate Plantation and want to thank them for a life-changing experience.  All opinions and photos are my own.


  1. I do want to just drop everything and go to Grenada right now. It looks like a great place to visit.

    1. It was a great experience - not at all what I was expecting

  2. A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at cocoa farming and what a unique and very special experience for you. Lovely to see you again. Pop round soon. I think you'd like some of my chocolate books!

    1. It was a life changing experience in many ways - can't wait to go back!

  3. How absolutely fascinating and what an incredible trip you had Heidi. As you know, I'm deeply envious, but I'm so glad you had such an interesting time.

    1. You would have loved the chocolate festival - definitely chocolate overload!

  4. Oh. My. God Heidi this looks like one of the best trips ever!! I'm super jealous right now ;)

    Louise x

    With love from Lou

    1. We love the Caribbean and this was no exception - we just loved it!

  5. Was really fun way to learn about chocolate

  6. Thank you Heidi for this wonder article about Crayfish Bay Organic Estate. Glad that you enjoyed your visit and we are looking forward to seeing you again this year.

    1. Can't wait to visit Crayfish Bay again - see you all soon!