Celebrating our ties to Saint Lucia on World Heritage Day

20 Mar 2024

Saint Lucia

World Heritage Day is about increasing diversity’s importance in cultural heritage. Why? To preserve it for future generations to come. With this in mind, let’s learn more about our strong ties with the beauty of Saint Lucia.

Each year, World Heritage Day rolls around as an opportunity to celebrate the world’s vibrant cultures. This celebrations also brings awareness to the important cultural monuments and sites across the globe. The main goal behind this day aims to preserve the world’s cultures, and we have hope that they will continue to be protected and remembered for generations to come.

At Hotel Chocolat, we’re incredibly proud to have ties to the country of Saint Lucia — home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Pitons. Let’s use this celebratory day to discuss our links to Saint Lucia and how our business ventures led us to its tropics and palm trees across the North Atlantic Ocean.

Saint Lucia

The Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia

In April 2006, Hotel Chocolat finalised the contracts and acquired The Rabot Estate as its property. However, it was one helpful Chocolate Tasting Club member who helped kickstart this incredible journey.

As chocolatiers, being able to grow your own cacao is the ultimate goal. If it weren’t for Michele Clare sending a 1920s copy of ‘Cocoa & Chocolate, Their History from Cacao Farm to Consumer’ to our Club Founder and Angus Thirlwell (Chief Executive), who knows where we would have ended up?

At this time, hardly any chocolatiers got directly involved in the bean-to-bar or roots-to-wrapper process. Instead, they opt to buy chocolate ready-made from specialist bean converters. This simply didn’t resonate with us. After a long and thorough search, co-founders Peter Harris and Angus Thirlwell laid their eyes upon a beautiful yet distressed estate in Saint Lucia. And so, our journey across the Atlantic began.

Growing our own cacao is a bold move. But the Rabot Estate is what allows us to create a direct connection between our customers and the authentic origins of chocolate. We are blessed to say that we are one of the few companies in the world that can do this.

Cacao growing in Saint Lucia

At our cacao farm in Saint Lucia, we can farm, harvest, ferment, and dry our own cacao beans. Growing cacao isn’t easy, but we’re dedicated to doing it right.

We start our cacao trees as seedlings and carefully graft them to ensure strong growth and quicker fruiting. This then allows us to pick the best trees for propagation and better yields. With the help of experts. We’ve even figured out how to identify and propagate the rare cacao trees on our estate. Did you know that if you visit the Rabot Hotel on our estate, you can see how we do it in person, and even graft your own cacao seedling? We’ll plant it for you, and you can come back to see how it’s grown whenever you wish.

Cacao trees are pretty special — only a few of their flowers turn into cacao pods. These pods take about six months to mature and we only harvest them twice a year. After picking, we let the pods rest before opening them up to get the seeds out. These seeds then go through a week-long fermentation process in wooden boxes. This is crucial for developing the chocolate flavour many know and love. 

Don’t worry. We keep a close eye on them, stirring regularly and making sure they don’t get too hot or dry out. Once fermented, the beans are dried in the sun, ready for their next step in the journey of becoming chocolate.

Cacao pods close up

The Rabot Hotel

Rabot Hotel is our spellbinding Saint Lucian getaway, comprising 25 private lodges, an open-air restaurant, and a bar. There’s also a spa overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage site and the island’s iconic Petit Piton Mountains. 

Set on our working cacao farm in the middle of a lush rainforest. It’s a place where the sounds of nature replace the noise of day-to-day life. This stimulates and inspires relaxation like no other place on earth (at least that’s what we think!).

Beauté de Cacao Spa

Speaking of relaxation, did you know that the cacao bean may lend a helping hand? At our Beauté de Cacao Spa, we offer a range of wellness therapies inspired by the power of the humble cacao bean.

Packed with antioxidants and vital minerals, the cacao bean has a myriad of uses. And in our rainforest sanctuary, we’re obliged to make the most of them — from head to toe. We make our unique lotions and potions on the estate in small batches. This way, every customer gets a unique experience.

Our resident massage therapist carries out our treatments in the spa. With spectacular views of the iconic Piton, it’s perfectly positioned to catch the cooling and soothing tropical breezes.

The most popular treatment by far is the Cacao Massage — a soothing massage tailored to your senses. First, follow your instincts to select which of our 100% Rabot Estate cacao oils is the right one for you. Pure cacao, cacao-peppermint, cacao-rose, or cacao-cinnamon. Then, choose the intensity of your massage, and you’re on your way to blissful relaxation.

The Pitons Management Area (PMA)

1.5km away from our Rabot Hotel lies The Pitons Management Area — the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This enchanting locale encompasses 2,909 hectares of both land and sea, showcasing the island’s iconic Pitons. These are two majestic volcanic spires that rise from the sea, along with other geological wonders and vibrant marine life. 

Let’s learn a little more about the magic of Gros Piton and Petit Piton, and the remarkable natural sanctuary that surrounds them.

Gros Piton

Standing tall at 770 metres above sea level. Gros Piton is not just a natural marvel but a symbol of Saint Lucia’s rich, volcanic landscape. It is this fertile, organic soil which makes it possible for us to harvest delicious cacao.

The slopes of Gros Piton are adorned with moist tropical forests that transition into subtropical wet forests at higher elevations. Occasionally, this gives way to patches of dry forest and even rarer elfin woodland at the summit. Home to 148 plant species and a vibrant array of birdlife, including five native species, Gros Piton is a biodiverse haven. This towering peak, along with its surrounding lands, forms a significant part of the PMA. This offers a breathtaking vista and a direct connection to the earth’s volcanic past.

Petit Piton

Petit Piton may be slightly smaller, standing at 743 metres, but it is equally astounding. The peak and its surrounding ridge are a treasure trove of biodiversity. With 97 plant species recorded here alone, among them several rare tree species. 

This area is a testament to the island’s natural heritage, with its lush vegetation and the diverse wildlife it supports. Petit Piton, together with Gros Piton, frames the iconic silhouette that is synonymous with Saint Lucia’s landscape. It’s visible from nearly every vantage point on the island — including our Rabot Hotel.

8 facts about The Pitons Management Area

In a true celebration of World Heritage Day, let’s explore ten fascinating facts about the Pitons Management Area (PMA) in Saint Lucia. It’s an area that captivates our visitors with its majestic landscapes and rich biodiversity.

  1. The site’s marine area encompasses a steeply sloping continental shelf with fringing and patch reefs covering more than 60% of the marine area. This ecosystem a rich variety of marine life including hawksbill turtles, whale sharks, and pilot whales.
  1. The PMA area includes the Qualibou Depression, which features a geothermal field with sulphurous fumaroles and hot springs, showcasing the island’s volcanic activity.
  1. The PMA contains evidence of its historical inhabitants, the Amerindian Caribs, with petroglyphs and various artefacts discovered within the area.
  1. The area is home to at least 27 bird species, five of which are native to the island, alongside a variety of indigenous rodents, bats, reptiles, and amphibians.
  1. The PMA showcases a variety of forest types, from tropical moist forests to subtropical wet forests and rare elfin woodlands at the summits of the Pitons.
  1. UNESCO recognised the Pitons Management Area as a World Heritage Site in 2004, highlighting its outstanding universal value for its natural beauty and geological significance.
  1. The PMA operates under a comprehensive legal and management framework to protect its unique environmental, geological, and cultural attributes, including measures against unauthorised developments and natural disasters.
  1. Beyond its natural and geological wonders, the PMA plays a vital role in the cultural and social fabric of Saint Lucia, serving as a symbol of national pride and a key destination for ecotourism and adventure seekers.
Saint Lucian Beach at sunset

Celebrate World Heritage Day with Hotel Chocolat

This World Heritage Day, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the wonders of Saint Lucia and our links to this incredible country. It’s given us more than we could ever ask for, allowing us to harvest ethically sourced cacao for our chocolate collection — so the least we can do is give back to its community.

From its breathtaking vistas to the hard-working individuals in our hotel or on the cacao farm, it’s easy to see why Saint Lucia is an area that should be protected for generations to come.