2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

If You Want to Make This Authentic, Add Rum

If You Want to Make This Authentic, Add Rum

Cocoa Tea in Grenada

“It’s rudimentary but it works,” Kim Russell shouts over the whirr of a vacuum cleaner as he slowly pushes the freshly ground cocoa beans down a shoot.

“And it costs a lot less than the industrial winnower. You need to do it a couple of times to get all the shells out, but it’s much quicker than by hand.”

There are probably not many vacuum cleaners involved in the making of a cup of hot cocoa, but this is what happens at Crayfish Bay, an organic cocoa farm on the Caribbean island of Grenada.

Originally from the West of England, Russell has called Grenada home for more than a decade. Keen on investing in the local economy, he enlisted the help of a local woman named Yvonne to oversee the cooperative farm. It was Yvonne who had worked over an open flame yesterday to roast these cocoa beans by hand.

As the last of the nibs fly into the bucket at the bottom of the shoot, Russell turns off the vacuum cleaner. Grabbing a handful of the grounds, he offers me a taste.

The small, black and brown diamonds have a bitter and nutty tang. This doesn’t feel indulgent at all.

“Now we’re going to pass this through the grinder a second time to get the cocoa paste. We normally roll these up…”

The rest of what he says is lost in the deafening ding as a gush of cocoa paste oozes, like chocolate lava, into a waiting tray.

Back at Crayfish Bay’s guesthouse, the cocoa paste is brewed into a tea in the outdoor kitchen. The armchairs facing out to sea in the al fresco living room gives the place the air of an English-Grenadian café. Just as I note this, a slice of rich, dark chocolate cake is thrust into my hands as Russell pours out the freshly brewed cocoa tea.

“So this, you drink it just like you would normal tea. Here’s some coconut milk,” Russell says as he gestures to the table, “and some sugar.”

He dashes back into the kitchen suddenly and returns moments later with a brown bottle.

“Now, if you really want to make this authentic, add a dash of rum.”

So this isn’t the vitamin-enriched chocolate milk for kids, I muse. But I do as I’m told.

The cocoa tea looks thin and flimsy, but with a good glug of fresh, creamy coconut milk, it feels a little more familiar. It’s not as homogeneous as the hot chocolate you get at home. A layer of fine grounds rises to the surface, making a kaleidoscopic pattern, as I stir in the sugar. It looks like I’ve peppered it with ground nutmeg. Intrigued, I take a sip in spite of the heat.

There’s no richness of dairy, no teeth-crippling sugar and no scent of vanilla. Instead, it is recognizable as chocolate but also distinctive in its bitterness, its purity, and its slightly tannic finish. I’m not sure if I like it, but it’s probably as close as I want to get to the Mayan version.

One thing is for sure, though. Kids: this hot cocoa is adults only.

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