by Alex Palmer | December 01, 2018

Saint Lucia, in the Eastern Caribbean, is a wonderful island getaway for groups. To capitalize on the beautiful surroundings, arrange a catamaran tour around the island's volcanic Pitons, a stroll through the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens or a dip into the rejuvenating (if muddy) sulfur springs. But for a true taste of this island's riches, be sure the agenda includes a cocoa-tea break. This lightly sweet drink is like a cup of coffee, but brewed with cocoa nibs instead of coffee beans, and blended with various spices to create a cross between a light coffee, an herbal tea and hot chocolate.

"Cocoa tea is made from the raw cocoa of local cocoa sticks and spices," says Davis Hippolyte, pastry chef for the Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, a 124-room, 57-suite property set on the secluded bay off the island's western coast. The property has recently introduced a cocoa-tea-making experience for guests. "The cocoa sticks are grated into hot milk and more spices," Hippolyte continues. "Some people add flour or corn starch to thicken it, or a little honey or sugar to sweeten it. The flavor is strong with a hint of bitterness."

The drink has been a staple in Saint Lucia for centuries, combining the tea-loving influence of the Brits, who once colonized the nation, with the island's own local cocoa trees.

Groups can participate in the Marigot Bay Resort's cocoa-tea workshop, overlooking the kitchen of the property's fine-dining restaurant, The Grill at 14°61°, during which Hippolyte or another member of the culinary team will walk attendees through the history and traditions surrounding the beverage.

"Cocoa tea is imbibed at all different times, but my favorite is on a rainy morning or at the end of dinner," says Hippolyte. After explaining the backstory of the cocoa tea, the chef then invites participants to blend their own. They begin by grating the cocoa from the stick, sprinkling it into a pot of boiling water, then create their own preferred balance of spices, selecting from bowls of cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, lime zest and more, and topping it all off with a bay leaf or two.

Attendees taking part in
a cocoa-tea-making class
mix in their preferred
blends of spices.

A drink-concocting conclave can be accompanied by a fried bake -- where participants learn how to fry up some lightly sweetened dough balls that often are served with salt fish and steamed vegetables. These savory treats complement the tea quite well.

Cocoa-tea-making is just one of the numerous F&B activities for groups at Marigot Bay Resort and Marina. The property also offers rum-tasting experiences in its dedicated Rum Cave, allowing groups to sample another homegrown favorite, sipping blends as they learn about the process from a sugar plantation to rum distiller (a major distillery is just a few minutes from the resort), adding in some Marigot Bay homemade bitters if they like. The Rum Cave also offers a full lunch and small-plate dinner.

To maximize time in the sun, a delightful menu of food and beverages can be enjoyed beside either of the property's two infinity pools. Guests also can relax with a treatment at the celebrated Auriga Spa, infused with local ingredients, or kick back in their own private hot tub (included in many of the property's rooms). Whatever activity they opt for, they can finish it off with a warm cup of the island's favorite beverage.

"Cocoa tea recipes have been handed down from each generation's grandmothers, so it is truly a deeply rooted part of our heritage using ingredients native to our land," says Hippolyte. "It is also a great opportunity to interact with our local chefs to get a real Saint Lucian experience."



This article appears in the December 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.