February 9, 2015
Everyone loves chocolate. And there is no better place to savour its rich, intense flavour than in Tobago – one of the first “˜Chocolate Isles’. Take a look at our Tobago chocolate guide for the island’s sweetest spots.
Tobago’s lengthy association with chocolate dates back to the 17th century, where, on its small palm scattered island shores, a thriving cocoa industry began to boom. Dozens of plantations reaped the rewards for nourishing fields of indigenous Criollo cacao. Blessed with intense and complex aromas, the richly-flavoured beans from the Criollo tree were, unfortunately, also highly susceptible to disease. In 1727 the damage was so widespread that almost all of Tobago’s cacao crops were lost. Cross fertilisation using the robust Forastero variety to create a natural hybrid called Trinitario helped to heal the cocoa industry for a few hundred years. But when hurricane-charged weather wreaked havoc in the 1900s, Tobago’s rich history of cacao production looked doomed.
That was until Tobago-born Duane Dove decided to resurrect his family’s old chocolate estate in 2005. Determined to reverse decades of neglect and bring cacao farming back, he ploughed heart and soul into the 45-acre Tobago Cocoa Estate. Workers from the local area were drawn from anyone with artisanal chocolate in their blood and DNA. Today, in partnership with Trinidad’s Cocoa Research Institute, Dove has developed eleven different strains of Trinitario beans. Each is hearty with good yields and amazing taste. He’s also created a winning visitor attraction where people can not only witness production and taste delectable chocolate, but also enjoy a walk amongst the beautiful tropical plants interplanted with the cacao trees, from cherries and mangoes to soursop and cashews.
Everything is hand harvested and sun-dried naturally in the yard. After drying, the cocoa beans are shipped to a master chocolatier, FranÃ§ois Pralus, in the Loire region in central France, who roasts, mills, presses, shapes and packages the chocolate in exquisite style. As the only single-estate cacao from Tobago in the world, the chocolate is made from 70 per cent pure cacao with no vanilla added to mask the deep, pure flavour – little wonder this decadent chocolatey delight won the Great Taste Award from London’s Guild of Fine Food last year.
Apart from the Tobago Cocoa Estate on the western side of the isle near Roxborough, there are other chocolate business in and around the villages of Kings Bay, Louis D`or and Richmond – and will no doubt soon be more. You’ll find world-class chocolate shops of distinction, celebrated chocolatiers and truffle artisans and stockists of chocolate tea all across Trinidad and Tobago at Cocobel Chocolates, Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride, Gran Couva Fine Dark Chocolate, Gina Artisan Chocolatier, Omarbeans Organic and Orlando House of Chocolate, to name just a few.
Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Tobago from London Gatwick. Book your flight to the “chocolate isle” today.
Have you tried Tobago chocolate? Have you visited the Tobago Cocoa Estate? Let us know in the comments section below.