Jungle M&Ms, and Other Adventures

Our tour guide, Cuthbert Monroque, at Hotel Chocolat. Photo by Jenny Sathngam.

Our tour guide, Cuthbert Monroque, at Hotel Chocolat. Photo by Jenny Sathngam.

In the lush jungle of Saint Lucia, cacao grows everywhere. I visited the island in June with my photographer friend Jenny Sathngam, and we ate more than our fair share of chocolate, cacao nibs, and cacao fruit, which tastes kind of like a mangosteen or lychee. The Dallas Morning News has just published a big feature on our trip. Here's a short excerpt and a few of Jenny's gorgeous photos.

"Our tour guide, Cuthbert Monroque, practically shouts through his three remaining teeth, “Do you know what type of cocoa tree this is from?” He’s holding a vibrant purple pod about the size of a Nerf football as we stand next to a cluster of trees, all of which are different.
"Monroque has just plucked a pod from a Trinitario tree, so that’s what each of us starts guessing, ever eager to be good students. Turns out it’s criollo, one of the rare trees that grows delicate-tasting cacao considered to be the best in the world. He hacks it open with a machete and lo and behold, it’s not filled with liquid chocolate but instead a fruity white pulp encasing about 50 cocoa beans. With frenetic energy, he passes it around, and we each pluck one bean from the cone and suck on the pulp.
“'Jungle M&M’S,'” he says with a charming grin."
Workers care for tiny cacao plants at Hotel Chocolat's nursery, convincing them to grow into tall trees. Photo by Jenny Sathngam.

Workers care for tiny cacao plants at Hotel Chocolat's nursery, convincing them to grow into tall trees. Photo by Jenny Sathngam.

At plantation Fond Doux, cacao beans dry in the sun in these giant racks. When it rains, workers slide the racks back under cover to protect the beans. Photo by Jenny Sathngam

At plantation Fond Doux, cacao beans dry in the sun in these giant racks. When it rains, workers slide the racks back under cover to protect the beans. Photo by Jenny Sathngam

Everything relates back to chocolate at Hotel Chocolat, even the burger. The bun is shaped like a cacao pod, and the burger is made with cacao nibs and served with a cacao nib vinaigrette on the side. Meanwhile the porter is made with cacao shells. Photo by Jenny Sathngam

Everything relates back to chocolate at Hotel Chocolat, even the burger. The bun is shaped like a cacao pod, and the burger is made with cacao nibs and served with a cacao nib vinaigrette on the side. Meanwhile the porter is made with cacao shells. Photo by Jenny Sathngam