Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Life Lesson....How to Make Chocolate!

Now that we are in Grenada we decided that we must go and learn one of life’s most valuable lessons, how to make chocolate.

The chocolate process starts with cocoa pods. These pods hold the beans, there are around 40 beans per cocoa pod. When you open a ripe pod, the seeds will be covered in white pulpy cream and the beans will be easy to pull apart. We got to pull out a bean and taste it and it was delicious! It had a very fruity taste. They harvest these pods by picking them off the tree. They must be very gentle when getting the pods because not all pods ripe at the same time. For the higher pods, they must use a special tool to get them down without hurting the tree. The tool was a long stick with a basket and a knife at the top of it.  To open the pods, they usually use a machete. After they are done getting all the beans out of the pod, the harvesters put the beans in bags and leave the pods on the ground. 

Here is a cocoa tree. 

This is what it looks like inside the pod.

 After harvesting they take the beans back to an open-air building.  They put them in wooden stalls that look like small horse stalls. Then they put banana leaves and jute bags on top of them for about 6 days to ferment the beans. During this process the white creamy pulp will turn into a liquid and the bean will turn brown. The bins will also get very hot during this process and reach a temperature at around 113-degrees Fahrenheit. 

When the beans get out of fermentation they must be dried. They could be dried two different places. The first open air trays where women go out and shuffle their feet through the beans every 30 minutes to make sure they get fully dried. We got to go out and shuffle the beans and it was fun, but we got a lot of beans stuck in between our toes the other place was in a building like a green house where the beans would be shuffled with a rake tool. After drying we were able to try the raw cocoa nib in the bean. It was very bitter, but we heard it is good for your heart and brain. 

Doin' the Cocoa Bean Shuffle!

Here is the other place the beans were dried.

Next the beans get put into bags wait for somebody to sort them by hand. The sorting is also sometimes done with a machine but to get them most precise results they have people sort them and it takes a long time!

The sorting is done by hand. 

The sorting job is never done!

The plantation used to send the beans away to be made into chocolate, so they had to polish the beans to get them all prepped for shipping. Belmont does not ship the beans out any more and only use them to make their own chocolate so there is not need for polishing.

The next step is roasting. Roasting is one of the most important steps to making chocolate it gives the chocolate the chocolate taste. The beans are roasted for about an hour.  The cocoa nib will then be taken out of the bean to be processed. 

After roasting they must decide what the bean will be made into. There are four different things that they make with the bean. 

Cocoa butter -  They can extract the fat from the bean which creates two products – cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Cocoa butter will be used as an ingredient in the chocolate bars. Cocoa butter can also be used in soaps and lotions. It is super good for your skin. 

Cocoa powder- The cocoa powder can be used for baking. We had a chance to taste a cake they were making for the employees just to celebrate that the day was Friday. We also tried cocoa tea. It was kind of like a hot chocolate but with island spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. 
when making the cocoa butter they separate cocoa butter and cocoa powder you don’t get just one you get both. This is also needed when making the actual bar of chocolate.

That is some good cocoa tea!

Chocolate bars- Chocolate is my favorite thing that they make from cocoa beans! We were excited to get a chance to try samples of all their chocolate bars. 

Roasted Cocoa Nibs – They also sell just the roasted nibs to be used in baking and in coffee and anything else you can think to put them in. 

It was fun to watch the process of making chocolate. There was a lot more to it than I ever imagined. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Leatherback Turtles

Today I have a special guest blogger, Jack! He is my 10 year old brother. He is going to share with you our experience with the Leatherback turtles in Grenada. 

          Leatherback  Turtles

                                           By Jack Sandlin

Here is a painting on the wall of the turtle center at the beach. 

Last night we went to Levera Beach in Grenada to see turtles lay eggs. These weren’t just any turtles, they were the biggest turtle of all, the Leatherback turtle. The Leatherback turtle is the heaviest of all the turtles at over 2,000 pounds! That’s one heavy turtle and it can also grow to 7.2 ft long, which is longer than me!

It takes 70-80 days for a Leatherback turtle egg to hatch. Sometimes it takes them longer. Leatherback turtles can dive to 1,000 meters! That’s so deep! Why they dive so deep is because to get away from sharks and other predators.

Here is a picture about the life cycle of the Leatherback turtle. 

We had to wait about two hours for the turtle to come out from the ocean. While we were waiting we ate sandwiches, drank soda and played on the beach. Sam and I found a tree that had a lot of boards connected to other trees like a treehouse. After a while my dad told us that the researchers found a Leatherback turtle and we walked down the beach in a single file line to the turtle.

We had to use the red flashlight mode because the white light can blind the turtle.  The turtle was the biggest thing I have ever seen in my life! When she came ashore she dug a hole with her back flippers but the hole was too damp for her eggs so she dug another hole. That hole was further back on the beach and very deep. She was in a trance when she was laying eggs and that is when we got to pet the turtle. You could feel the bone in the flippers. Her flipper was kind of rough and the shell was hard and smooth at the same time. When she was done laying eggs one of the researchers said that there was 31 non fertilized eggs and 78 regular eggs. That’s 109 eggs in total! 

Here is the Leatherback turtle. She is huge!!
Here she is using her hind flippers to dig her nest. This took about 45 minutes.
Here I am helping the researchers count her eggs.
Here I am petting her while she is laying her eggs.

After she laid her eggs the researchers measured her and her nest. 

When she was done laying eggs it looked like she was stuck in the sand, at least that’s what Emma thought, but she was actually trying to camouflage her eggs so predators can’t find her babies.

When she was done camouflaging her eggs she went back into the water. This is when Sam was asleep already. It seemed that Sam had a very fun time. When we all went into the car we were all egghausted (he, he, he). 

I really loved going to go sea the turtle (puns, puns, puns). We all had lots and lots of fun.