Hotel Chocolat – A Divine Chocolate Tour in St. Lucia

Hotel Chocolat, a boutique property in St. Lucia, features not rooms but “luxe pods,” where even the magnificently minimalist décor (rich mahogany floors, ivory-colored bathroom with open-air shower) evokes the essence of chocolate.

Hotel Chocolat’s union of tourism and agricultural development, specifically its devotion to all things cocoa, is part of a budding movement across the Caribbean. You might call it choco-tourism.

From Tobago to Dominica, Grenada to St. Vincent, the Caribbean cocoa industry, which has roots in colonial times, is being revitalized. This is excellent news economically: With free trade having all but destroyed the islands’ banana and sugar industries, fair-trade farming initiatives are a welcome boon.

And it’s hardly small-change news; the world price of cocoa nearly doubled from 2004 to 2008, with an even greater increase for the rare genre of bean the Caribbean is feted for: fine-flavored cocoa, which makes up just 5 percent of the global market. What grows in the Caribbean is the Champagne of cocoa. It even has its own promotional team: the two-year-old Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum, a European Union-financed networking vehicle working to bolster production and exports in nine countries.

And then there is the tourism connection. Aficionados flock to Napa or the Loire Valley for wine tasting; why not go to stunning island locales to indulge in sun, sand, sea — and chocolate?

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