Belmont Estate - A view from our expert author

Belmont Estate, Grenada by Celia SorhaindoBelmont is a historic estate that dates back to the late 1600s when the first French settlers arrived on the island. The estate was a large coffee and sugar producer before changing over to nutmegs and cocoa in the 1800s. The estate was first owned by a French family by the name of Bernego before being transferred to John Aitcheson of Airdrie, Scotland, when Grenada came under British rule following the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

In 1770, the estate was leased to Alexander Campbell, a high-standing colonialist and colleague of Ninian Home, then Governor of Grenada. Both men were executed during the Fédon Rebellion (1795–96). Despite Grenada falling into the hands of the French between 1779 and 1783, the estate stayed in the Aitcheson family before being sold to the Houston family and then in 1944 to the Nyacks, a local family from the village of Hermitage. The Nyack family was the first of Indian heritage to own an estate in Grenada and it still belongs to them today.

(Photo: The Belmont Estate was a large coffee and sugar producer and then changed over to nutmeg and cocoa © Celia Sorhaindo)

Described as an ‘agri-tourism product’, the 400 acre Belmont Estate successfully fuses agriculture, history and culture to produce a business and heritage site that should be on every visitor’s agenda. Don’t miss it. In addition to tours of the cocoa process, there is a picturesque tropical garden, a museum, a plant nursery, a gift shop, an organic farm, animals (including morocoy, mona monkeys and macaws), a goat dairy, café and fruits stall, restaurant and occasional cultural events such as ‘dancing the cocoa’ and drumming. ‘Dancing the cocoa’ is an interesting spectacle where two estate workers, a man and a woman, dance together in a large copper pot of cocoa beans.

The country’s largest organic cocoa producer is the home of beautiful Grenadian chocolate. 

Dancing in the cocoa, Belmont Estate, Grenada by Celia Sorhaindo

After cocoa has been dried, the beans sometimes have a white residue on them – a natural result of the fermentation process, but one that makes them less visually appealing to discerning international customers. Before the advent of special polishing machines, dried cocoa was placed in large copper pots and a couple would ‘dance’ on them to the beat of a drum. The ou
tcome is a couple of exhausted dancers and some very shiny cocoa.

It is indeed the cocoa and the chocolate that really capture the eye, the nose, and the imagination at Belmont Estate. Now entirely organic, the estate grows and supplies much of its cocoa to the Grenada Chocolate Company which is located in the nearby community of Hermitage. The chocolate factory also has part of its production unit on the Belmont Estate where it makes and sells a variety of delicious bonbons. A solar oven outside the bonbon shop also bakes great chocolate cake. The aroma of cocoa, chocolate-making and cake baking is completely irresistible.

(Photo: ‘Dancing on the cocoa’ at the Belmont Estate is done to the beat of a drummer © Celia Sorhaindo)

If you are there on the right day you may be lucky enough to see ‘wet cocoa’ arriving from Belmont’s organic cocoa farms. These are buckets of cocoa seeds that have been harvested from ripe cocoa pods. When removed from the pods, the seeds are covered in a thick white pulp. Each bucket is strained for excess liquid and then the contents, pulp and all, are poured into deep wooden fermentation bins where they ‘sweat’ and the pulp begins to liquefy. The sweating process is important for the taste and quality of the cocoa. It helps to rid the cocoa seeds of too much bitterness and it will usually last for up to seven days. The next stage is drying. The seeds are drained of any remaining liquid pulp and then laid out on large trays to dry naturally in the sun. These trays sit in between rails so that wooden covers can be rolled over to protect them during inclement weather.

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