As a lifelong chocolate addict, I knew I was in trouble when luxury UK confectioner Hotel Chocolat announced the opening of upscale eco-cottages on their cocoa plantation in St. Lucia. In the 18th century, the Caribbean island was once a bustling hub for chocolate trade, but in the 21st century it’s better known as a site of The Bachelor. With promises of a “bean to bark experience”—picking my own cocoa beans and making personalized truffles—I booked the next direct JetBlue flight for a chance to mainline my sweet drug of choice.
And oh, what a treat. The property has direct views of St. Lucia’s famed Les Pitons—twin volcanic peaks rising from the Caribbean like bonbons. The villas are decorated in a modern West Indies chic, with sexy outdoor showers that open to the rainforest. The soaring, open-air restaurant Boucan serves specially developed “cacao cuisine”—there’s a hint of the goodness in everything from a delectable citrus salad with local greens and white chocolate dressing to just fished Dorado with cream leeks in a red wine a cacao sauce.
But the real highlight was a hike through the 140-acre estate where I got up close and personal with the source of all my extra pounds—cocoa pods as big as mangoes. I dug in to harvest the cocoa seeds for drying later to make truffles, while my expert guides harnessed the rest of the fruit for use in cocktails and spa treatments. Let me just say that my chocolate didn’t look anything like the bars Hotel Chocolat sells in their stores, but I’ll never forget the taste and the experience. Forget farm-to-table, and sign me up for more of this tree-to-truffle.
Dishin’ tip from your GBF (gay best friend): Can’t swing a trip to St. Lucia? Order Hotel Chocolat online, or better yet, visit the only US store on Boston’s Newbury Street. There’s a tasting room in back where they’ll pair chocolate and wine. Now it doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Except in St. Lucia.
Hotel Chocolat, Saint Lucia, West Indies, (1-800-757-7132 or hotelchocolat.com)
For more of Jon Paul’s travel, check out his blog Poptimistic.com