Sunday, 7 July 2019

Cocoa Tea and Chocolate Talks at the House of Chocolate Grenada || Grenada Chocolate Fest2019

I had the pleasure of attending 'Cocoa Tea and Chocolate Talks at the House of Chocolate Grenada. On Wednesday 5th May, 2019. I know you're probably thinking, did she say a TALK? That can't be one of the fun ones! Well, jokes on you because I'm an academic  so of course this qualifies as my nerdy idea of fun! Also there was COCOA TEA, which I happen to love so much I have recently dubbed myself it"s beloved ambassador.

Now, as some of you may already know, cocoa tea is a drink made of dried concentrated cocoa, brought to a boil. Then, like most teas, it sees the addition of milk and sugar as according to preference. On my island of Grenada we grow organic, ethically made cocoa that is of exemplary quality. Go ahead, ask about us.

Cocoa tea is usually served hot. As it is made of the raw ingredient used as the base for all chocolate, it is rich, full bodied and if dried well in the processing part of the product, it is very healthy.

It is a drink I am extremely passionate about. As a child I was never a milk drinker really and while many city house hold children seemed to have grown up drinking milk, my countryside home really drank cocoa tea the majority of times.  It is a tradition for my family that spans generations, both paternally and maternally.  One of those things that never seemed odd until I discussed it with friends and found out that for them it was more treat than daily indulgence.

On our island Grenada it is made in a variety of ways, most commonly with the addition of cinnamon and bay-leaf during the boiling stage. As I lived that wonderful privilege of country life, I grew up picking a bay leaf (locally also called bounden leaf) off a branch, left to dry on our kitchen counter. I would pop it into a boiling pot of melting cocoa and watch the steam swirling up from that fragrant depth of soon to be liquid chocolate.

I wish I could describe for you the smell of a bay-leaf hitting that boiling hot, dark, swirling vat of cocoa. How it permeates...not just every room of a house with the smell of roasting cocoa bean but the general surrounding environment with it.
So many Sunday mornings I woke up by that smell, as my mother stood at our stove. Waking the house and my appetite with the stir of that pot of tea. I love it so much I've wrote poetry about it y'all! 

At the Grenada Chocolate Festival 2019, Cocoa Tea and Chocolate Talks, we were lead into discussion by Belgian professional chocolate taster: Le Cameleon Chocolate

She spoke to us of the differences between a traditional Mexican cocoa roast and a contemporary one.

I was enraptured. Since cocoa tea means so much to my family it was enthralling to find out that the Aztec made chocolate, oven roasting their beans and adding a smoky, woody taste to their chocolate not just for flavour but as a way to pay spiritual homage to their ancestors through the smoke ascension. 
Myself and Cameleon Chocolate sharing a cup of vegan cocoa tea from the House of Chocolate Grenada

I cannot help but marvel over how people, so far apart, so different in look, culture and geography, managed to work out a delicious endeavour so similar in it's process.

Here, at home in Grenada, we do a lot of stove top roasting of our cocoa beans. Maybe because with time it has seemed simply easier and time effective? Our chocolate taster reminded us of the importance of knowing the objective of chocolate tasting, is it for traditional notes of wood and smoke or modern notes of smoothness and spice? Notice where the emphasis lay on your tongue.

Afterword, the House of Chocolate gave us an exclusive look at how they make their cocoa tea in house and we got to tasting. We also had the opportunity to taste some rough ground chocolate from Tabasco Mexico, examining the story in the flavour of a treat typically used to make drinks. We noticed how it is 70 percent sugar and as a result, is more prone to melt quickly. How its roughness, mildly woody and smoky notes, play on your tongue a little before it is gone. We could then compare and contrast this with how our many grades of Grenadian chocolate tastes smoother, darker and leaves a burst of flavour long after it is gone...We got to taste this not just in tea but in House of Chocolate Grenada's jam filled bon bons!

Also pictured above: me dying over how cute this tiny treat is oh my goodness just LOOK at it!

I cant wait to have a dark roast, vegan styled cup of cocoa tea someday. Honestly with all that sharing of cultural similarities even in the face of difference, it's made me want to put Mexico on my list of places to visit for the first time in my life because what else do we do similarly, I wonder? The more we change the more we stay the same it seems...Thank God the cocoa stayed deliciously brewed!

How marvellous it was to taste and discuss the existence and relevance of cultural, historical tastes, verses modern taste and trends. How often we forget that food carries in it not just tradition but the stories of a people, long after are gone.  It makes me wonder what other stories meals have been trying to tell me....

Peace. Love. Cocoa Tea!
For more on the Grenada Chocolate Festival 2020 click here!

Friday, 15 February 2019

The Reader by Traci Chee :: Book Review


The Reader by Traci Chee is a fun fantasy tale set in a time when reading is a long forgotten skill surrounded by magic and mystery.

The plot is rife with the importance of literacy and forces us to look at life without literature and without stories having been accessibly recorded or immortalized.

This book reminds us that there is a magic in stories, the ones we live, the ones we make up, both. The author reminds us that the preservation of these stories has always been important and in a way is its own kind of magic.

The saying ‘Art imitates life’ comes to mind when I think of this story. The main character becomes absolutely smitten with the notion of reading as she learns it. In her absence of the skill as a reader we can also feel her pain and helplessness of living in a world without a tangible sense of direction, the reliability and tested means of understood information books provide us. Something, I think we all take for granted.

Consider it, without books, both fiction and none fiction whose story do you trust?

I did expect it to remind me of the importance, the value and power of words, books, stories and there the author didn’t fail me.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Sip and Paint Grenada Project Pet!

On December 23, 2018, I had the pleasure of attending the last Sip and Paint Grenada Project Pet event of the year 2018. Jurnee, a private concierge and travel agency that creates a tailor-made travel experience just for your visiting needs, organized this event. It was interesting to note, that it was the first of its kind here in Grenada. How could I not be excited to be a part of this? Humanitarianism, encouragement to lessen individual carbon footprints and fur babies being appreciated through the vehicle of art? I was here for it!

Briana R.Thorne, the founder, told me of the event and the company’s vision not just to service its customers but to give back. Jurnee donates to our Grenadian economy in a way that helps to build a more sustainable earth at large. How do they achieve it? They do it by encouraging the use of recyclable canvas bags. Jurnee takes it further as donations from this Sip and Paint Project Pet event are given to the local Services for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) which is an action that can literally help save the lives of animals in need. All of which is done while still managing to touch the hearts of pet owners with their individual creation of pet portraits, painted under the tutelage of a professional artist.

It was honestly a bit nerve wrecking. You see, as an Islander, I am not so much afraid of the boat as so much as I am of drowning. I am usually fine with boats and I think drowning is a perfectly logical thing to be afraid of to be fair. The trip via speedboat to the venue proved nothing to be afraid of thankfully. The luxurious and rustic Oasis floating bar was only a three-minute speedboat ride at most, over clear clean Caribbean Sea water.

I was surprised to find how calm and serene the whole trip there and even the venue was as I guess; you forget how silent an untouched bit of ocean must truly be. The silence was appropriately atmospheric though as smooth music ushered us into the bar. The view from the Oasis is well worth a boat trip. There are cliff rocks far enough away to be safe but close enough to be strikingly beautiful.

The white sails of so many local cruisers and small, privately owned sailing vessels lightly garnish the shoreline. Therefore, you are reminded that though you are privately situated you are not completely isolated, completely devoid of human rescue or connection if you were to suddenly need it.

It is an amazing, heart grasping privilege to be able to see my island of Grenada from this vantage point; as an offshore eye looking in on life. The Sip and Paint Grenada event had not even started yet and I was already deeply moved and calmed by it all.

The staff was friendly, ever checking in to ensure all guests had all the things they needed for both confidence and comfort. Easels with canvas were pre-laid out for us upon arrival. Alongside them were canvas bags, if that is your painting of choice as it was mine that day. Different paint brushes of varying sizes and vibrant paint color hues from aqua to brilliant saffron yellow. Each table was outfitted with a protective covering to keep the work area clean. There was water and clean up paper in the event of spills and paint brushing cleaning became a central focus. All of this conspired to keep our work environment tidy and functional.

Each table accommodated quite a few people. That day some had five, some had four, some three but I was alone because my neighbor seemed to have bailed. It worked out well I think since my shy inexperienced self had more room to work.

We set to painting soon after arrival with the artist Nahshon. He led us in a welcome and a placating speech that reminded us of the importance of self-satisfaction, as we set out to create a piece of art that brought us joy. This paired with his reassurance that he would be there with us every step of the way to make sure we did not completely fail at beauty (my worry not his exact words) and we were good to go.

He stayed true to his word and taught many quick and easy brush strokes, advising us on the change of paint application strategy when necessary. Still, Nahshon balanced this with stepping back enough so that the experience was a deeply individual one.

It was wonderful to step back into myself too, as we approached the end of a turbulent year. This event was anything but turbulent; it was a calm, easy evening on the water. We were encouraged to play and to create artistically. We were not rushed but coaxed into exploration and fearlessness on the canvas.

Many of my fellow patrons came in groups of friends and there was light happy chatter all around me. One lady even brought her dog, who proved very peaceful happy company both on the boat sharing my apprehension of the sea and at the venue appearing quiet and pensive.

As music softly lapped over my senses like the ocean waves caressing the dock outside, I felt my shoulders loosen and relax. Soft cool breeze and my own artwork graphed across a canvas bag was pure bliss. I would use it, for it would help animals in need and our world at large. Despite the challenges and sense of inferiority as other first time painters did a fantastic job, this event gave me a sense of resounding serenity.

At sunset, we stepped outside into the open air to take photos of our progress. My canvas bag doesn’t have my dog on it. He passed away recently but he helped me to see the world in a much happier way. I couldn’t bear the thought of carrying a photo of him around with me as we had him for so many years and I felt it would make me sad instead of happy. He brought me joy though; a long time ago I lost a pet to painful external circumstances and had not been able to look at pets of my own the same way for a very long time until he came along. Honestly, I ignored that dog Bobbie for an extensive time as a result of that trauma but he was resilient. He met me on my way home every night and he constantly threw himself at my feet for tummy rubs. I ignored him for years, leaving his loving to other family members but he never gave up on me. By the time he died, he completely won me over and I mean it when I tell you it took years.

It was because of my dog Bobbie that I could make peace with the notion of loving pets again. Now we have a cat that I opened my heart to and it is her I have painted on my canvas bag. Her with hearts in her eyes for the love I now let myself feel, for pets that have and will continue to come and go. Now, as I do my part to reduce my carbon footprint, small as it may be, I can remember and appreciate the way a pet can help and heal a person in a long-lasting way, whether you want them to or not.

Thank you to Sip and Paint Grenada and Jurnee for this uniquely personal experience, that helped me create and helps my nation through the vehicle of art. The experience and the product were beautiful in a way I will take with me for a long time. I hope you too can have a gratifying experience through a tailor-made adventure in the coming 2019.

Sip and Paint Grenada is an event first of its kind in Grenada and is a product of Jurnee, not a separate entity. Thank you again to the funder, Briana R.Thorne for the invitation to attend this beautiful experience and sponsoring this post. If you want to find out more feel free to check them out on facebook and instagram!

Peace. Love. Give Back
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