Monday, August 21, 2017

For the Cacao Adventurer: Crayfish Bay is the Place to Stay!

It's now August and I am still dreaming about my trip to Grenada last May. And when I am thinking about Grenada, the spot that comes to mind most is Crayfish Bay. I want to go back! I want to spend more time. I want to help on the farm. I want to stay in their 'Little House', a rental overlooking the Caribbean Sea. And I want to eat more of the chocolate made on the cocoa farm. And I certainly want to hang out with Lylette and Kim Russell some more.

That's me! On the farm - at Crayfish Bay Organic Estate Grenada.

So who are Lylette and Kim, you ask?  They are the amazing couple who run the Crayfish Bay Organic cacao farm and the onsite, tree-to-bar chocolate factory. Located on the North-West Coast of Grenada, this 15 acre estate is idyllic, and certainly full of flavour. Mango, citrus and nutmeg trees greet you at every turn, and the cacao is simply everywhere.

Kim and Lylette Russell, Owners of
Crayfish Bay Organic Estate & Chocolate Company

While I was at the Grenada Chocolate Festival, I had the opportunity to visit the cacao farm on two separate occasions. The first day was to show us how Lylette and Kim are making chocolate 'on a shoestring' budget. Kim built his own cocoa bean roaster, and many other pieces of equipment to make chocolate with. And Lylette self-taught herself in chocolate making, including how to temper chocolate, and to turn their beautiful and very tasty cocoa beans into a gorgeous 75% dark chocolate. They started small, and stayed within budget, and eventually built up to a point where they could buy a larger chocolate refiner. They have already increased the profit earned from the estate by making chocolate from the beans, and they have a goal of using 100% of their beans in their own chocolate.



From roasted cocoa beans, to cracking, winnowing
and chocolate making, Kim and Lylette did it all on a budget.

During the second visit, our group was able to 'help' on the farm for the day. The farmers took us out and showed us how to pick the cacao from the trees, crack open the pods and pull out the cocoa beans and pulp from inside. I could see how the work could be tiring, but I think I was on too much of a cocoa bean high to notice. The excitement by everyone in the group was visible in every stage of the day. People were taking selfies on piles of cocoa pods, laughing and smiling, and exclaiming with excitement when they found a 'juicy' pod, and sharing with others to eat the delicious pulp (sorry Lylette and Kim, I think we ate a good chunk of your profit that day!). It truly was a wonderful experience.


This pic was taken of me (and friends like Karine (Miss Choco)
by the amazing photographer at the Grenada Chocolate Fest.
See it on the festival Facebook page by clicking here
.

Taking the beans and pulp out of the pods was very serious business.
This pic came from the Grenada Chocolate Festival.

Afterwards, we ate a delicious lunch made by Lylette and Kim, and enjoyed chocolate cake (made from a Crayfish Bay product: pre-formed balls of organic cacao & sugar that you can buy when you visit the farm). We also indulged in a chocolate tasting. Grenadian rum was also a part of the deal and some yummy cocoa tea (made from a combination of cocoa husks and nibs).



The taste of the chocolate...
Upon opening the last package of chocolate, these two months later, the chocolate smells to me like roasted plums and berries. And as I take a sip of coffee after a bite of the chocolate, the chocolate washes away and a mild charcoal roast taste lingers in my mouth. I am happily in dark chocolate heaven. This chocolate is potent, and there is a distinct fruitiness to the taste, with strong earthy flavours and some distinctive acidity that lingers. The roast is certainly a dark roast, which may have some slight variations among bars, since Kim demonstrated his method of listening to the beans to learn when the roast is done.


The colour is almost a milky-red shade of brown, rich mahogany. When I made a 70% from the same beans grown on the Crayfish Bay farm, the shade was even closer to a dark-milk chocolate. I love these beans and I love the chocolate that they make!


I made my own chocolate from Crayfish Bay beans...
I asked Kim if I could buy a 5 lbs bag of beans from him, and he was willing to part with them. I didn't pay attention to the price or worry about driving it down, because whatever Kim wanted to charge me was fine with me. I figured that he worked out the best possible price for him as a cacao farmer. And I had already tasted the beans on the farm, so I was willing to pay whatever he asked.


Crayfish Bay's beautiful cocoa beans.

When I got back to my commercial kitchen in Canada, I applied a fairly light roast to the beans and then created an 80% dark chocolate. With the level of acidity and fruity flavours the beans naturally had, I found it a bit too bitter, so I took half the batch and created a 70% dark chocolate. The fruit flavours really shined with the increase in sugar, and plum, grape and blackberry flavours seem to be at the forefront, with some citrus, earthy and chocolaty notes. I love my little supply of these Crayfish Bay bars. I am so sad that there are only 11 bars left! Oops, make that 10. I ate one while writing this post.

The chocolate bars I made from Crayfish Bay's cocoa beans.
The entire stock is just for me! Well, I've shared a few...


Craft Chocolate Makers Often Support Each Other, But Crayfish Bay Takes it to a New Level

Kim and Lylette are hoping to inspire other young Grenadians to farm cacao. "We are hoping to set up apprenticeships for young Grenadians who have access to lands and are seriously interested in cocoa." They are thinking about apprenticeships that would last 2 to 3 months and would cover every stage from planting young trees to producing chocolate, including the self construction of buildings and machinery to keep capital costs down. They also want to encourage people to work together as groups to avoid taking loans. Kim and Lylette are still working out the details, but this would go a long way to helping young farmers to get involved in growing cacao, and keeping the profits on the farm by making chocolate from tree-to-bar.



Cocoa pods opened, emptied and nestled into the
trees on Crayfish Bay Organic Estate.
Farming cacao requires collecting wet beans
(with pulp still attached) and bringing them in at the
end of each day to begin the fermentation process.


Crayfish Bay is all about Ethical Business Practices
Kim has given complete control of the land to some of the poorest local people who receive 90% of the highest price available for the wet cocoa and green Nutmeg they pick.  All other crops that they plant belong entirely to them, which they feed their families from and sell in the local market. According to Kim, "this has had a huge impact on their income and also raises self esteem." The other 10% of the price goes to land taxes and capital costs.

The coal used to roast the cocoa beans is also purchased within the community. Kim and Lylette explained, " We buy in bulk, but at regular retail prices, which also has a huge positive impact on some of the poorest people and also keeps the corporates out of the loop." Their goal is to entirely support the Grenadian locals, and not the type of large corporations that move in and care more about tourist-generated profit on a tropical island like Grenada.
 

One of the cacao farmers cutting the cocoa pods
from the trees at Crayfish Bay.
As far as their strong beliefs in growing organic cacao, they say, "We believe that 'organic' goes way beyond what you eat, but is rather a state of mind where we see the planet and everything that depends on it, including us, as one living organism. If we look after each and everything,including each other and the billions we will never meet, we look after ourselves.......therein lies the profit....".  These are the best kind of cacao estate owners and chocolate makers.


Where can you buy Crayfish Bay Organics Chocolate?
A family company in the UK called 'Lick The Spoon' has just started selling Crayfish Bay Organic chocolate bars online, which is Crayfish Bay's first international retailer. In Grenada, you can find the chocolate at a couple of major hotels, and some boutique hotels like True Blue Bay Resort, and in the  'House of Chocolate', which is in St. Georges. Other locations include: 'All Things Nutmeg' , which is in the GCNA mall on Kirani James Boulevard and 'The Market Place' which is located in Port Louis marina. The company is also in the midst of organizing export to other Caribbean Islands, so watch for this chocolate on your next vacation!


As for the beans, you can still taste those in Pump St. Bakery's Crayfish Bay chocolate bar. They are the only chocolate maker allowed to purchase the beans at this time. Otherwise, you'll have to go to the farm in Grenada yourself to pick up a bag. Kim plans to use as may of his beans as possible in his chocolate.

Where can you stay at Crayfish Bay?
Kim and Lylette have awesomely built a 'Little House' which is listed on airbnb. It is set up on the hill overlooking the bay. There are two bedrooms that you can close up, and a lovely covered outdoor kitchen and patio area for sitting, relaxing and enjoying the surroundings and smells of fresh cacao,  mangos and other tropical fruit.  


The view from the 'Little House' at Crayfish Bay.

You can choose to pay additional to eat with the owners each night (from what I hear, Kim makes delicious fish dinners most nights), or you can buy your own groceries, or eat out on your own. I think you can even follow the farmers around to learn how to be pick cocoa pods from the trees and prepare the beans for fermentation, and perhaps Lylette will show you how to make chocolate. I spoke with two guys from Quebec who were staying in the Little House at the time of my visit, and they did all those things and had a fantastic time. It seems like a truly an amazing tree-to-bar chocolate experience.

Learn more about the 'Little House' on Crayfish Bay's website: http://www.crayfishbay.com/.

So get moving and plan your next vacation to Grenada! Crayfish Bay's 'Little House' is waiting for you!

***

This is the many faces of me in Grenada...see how happy I am? I can't wait to get back there someday.

7 comments:

  1. This looks like an amazing trip.

    Anywhere else you would suggest to visit for a chocolate adventurer?

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  4. Thank you Lisbeth for such a glowing compliment to our efforts here at Crayfish bay. Sorry about the delayed comment, there's so much happening here. Look forward to having you back with us sometime soon.

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