Tuesday, October 5, 2010
WHERE YOU GO WIT DAT BUS FULL OF WHITE PEOPLE
The last week when we went out on the organized cruisers trip, a school child walking home asked this of the driver.
Today we went out by ourselves and after negotiating this very dodgy dinghy dock, used the local buses to get to the Belmont Estate and the Rivers rum distillery. We were the only white people on the the seven local buses we used today.
The Belmont estate is currently owned by the great great granddaughter of the mace speculator who made a fortune buying at $5 and selling a few years later at $50 a pound. Nowadays it grows many things but its primary cash crop is organic cocoa beans for the chocolate trade. It used to sell the beans worldwide but today the organic chocolate factory in Grenada takes it's entire output.
We were shown around by a charming and knowledgeable young man who started under the old bell bought from France in the 1700s and used to signal to the slaves when it was sugar plantation run with slaves.
Nowadays the estate employs many people as they still need many hands and feet to clean, ferment, dry and polish the beans before they get shelled ground and processed into cocoa.
This is the cleaning rack and the fermentation bins.
Ke our guide showed us the drying racks which can be pulled out when the sun shines but if it rains they are pushed back under cover in seconds. This one was being used to dry mace just now as the chocolate crop was just starting.
They also buy in cocoa beans from local non organic farmers and encourage them to go organic as they will get much higher prices for their beans then.
After a taste of a dried bean ready for roasting we had a chance to see some of the artifacts from the “big house” sadly totally destroyed by hurricane Ivan.
These included some Arawak stone carvings many many centuries old and ledgers dating back 200 years.
Our tour was finished off with a cup of local cocoa 'tea' which was delicious.
Our nest stop was the rum distillery. This produces large quantities of rum in two grades, the weak stuff which is only 69% alcohol and the strong which is 75%. They do this with the aid of some amazing machinery.
This waterwheel is in a wheel house which is 225 years old, as is the wheel shaft, the gears it drives and the rollers that crush the cane to produce the cane juice. We were lucky to see it running but all the recent rain meant they had a good strong water flow and could crush all day.
The juice ran down an open channel into these giant copper bowls where the syrup was heated then boiled to concentrate the syrup before going to a tank to ferment. 7 to 10 days later it would be distilled and be ready for sale.
When the first float sank the rum had reached 70% alcohol but they were waiting for the second one to go down. At that point it is better than 75% and they start bottling the output. No ageing or fannying about with oak barrels. From sugar cane to Carribbean rocket fuel [ sorry rum ] takes them about 14 days.
The guy with the spanner is trying to fix a big rum leak in the still without success.
My ear is not yet quite tuned in to the local accent and patois but the gist of what he was saying “F*** it if you think you can fix it here is the spanner”.
Oh yes, why do I call it Carribbean rocket fuel ? Well no party out here takes of with out it!
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Posted by John Duncker at 6:52 PM