If you’ve read the About page for this blog, you’ll probably have guessed that I have a little secret, aside from the need to don lycra cycling gear and cycle Oxfordshire’s roads frightening the locals! I am, of course, referring to my raging choc-a-holism!
As a kid in the UK, Cadbury’s and Galaxy were always the staples when I felt in need of a chocolaty treat but as an adult I developed a taste for dark chocolate and a few years ago joined the Hotel Chocolat tasting club.
Hotel Chocolat is a UK-based chocolatier with a reputation for excellence and imagination in its chocolates. The tasting club involves a subscription to buy one or more of their range of “tasting boxes” at intervals to your specification. The chocolates are “pre-release” so you have an opportunity to taste and score them, on the Hotel Chocolat web site, prior to them going into production.
Hotel Chocolat also have a cocoa plantation on the Caribbean island of St Lucia so when we holidayed on the island a visit to the Rabot Estate was a must. The estate, established in 1745, is situated near the picturesque town of Soufrière, the former French capital of the island, and offers a “bean to bar” experience for visitors that are keen to try making their own chocolate. I didn’t need to be asked twice!
Our group met with the chocolatier on the veranda of one of the wooden lodges that make up the estate buildings and there was a long table laid out with the raw materials and utensils we’d need to make our first hand-made bar of chocolate.
We followed a much simplified and much, much shorter process, of course, as we only had a few hours – punctuated by lunch – to complete our bars, but it was a very enjoyable and informative visit and one I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in chocolate who’s fortunate enough to visit the island. Sticky, chocolaty fingers all round!
Once we’d poured the fruits of our labours into the moulds the bars needed some time to set and so we adjourned to the Boucan Restaurant for lunch. As well as being a working cocoa plantation, the Rabot Estate also offers an opportunity to stay at the Boucan Hotel and Spa which is sited there. The Boucan Restaurant is the hotel restaurant where the menu has, as you might expect, a rather chocolaty feel to it.
We sat in the shade of the restaurant’s canopy, a gentle breeze cooling us in the midday heat, with stunning views of the Pitons right in front of us while we ate a simple but very delicious chocolate-tinged lunch … I was in seventh heaven and I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
- Hotel Chocolat – http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/
- The Boucan Hotel and Restaurant – http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/boucan
- St Lucia – http://stlucianow.co.uk