Fond Doux Estate, A royal destination….
When his Royal highness the prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall visited St. Lucia in 2008, they toured the Fond Doux Cocoa estate in Soufriere. It was their only visit to a private property on their 24 hour stop over in St.Lucia. The plantation dates back more than 250 years carrying on the traditional cocoa production as well as providing holiday accommodations.There was nothing accidental about the Prince’s desire to spend time on the estate and meet its owners, Lyton and Eroline Lamontagne. The Prince of Wales and the Lamontagnes have much in common.
Fond Doux is one of the rare certified organic estates in St.Lucia, growing cocoa, citrus and other produce to the high standards required by the organic label. Lyton spent years purging the earth of the powerful chemicals used previously on banana crops. With the organic certification, he earns more for his produce. The Prince of Wales is also certified organic farmer..
Their Royal Highnesses learnt about the complete production of cocoa, from the harvesting of the cocoa pods, which contain the beans used to make chocolate, to the manufacture of the pure cocoa sticks.
Prince Charles and Duchess were walked through a small part of the estate and shown the large yellow pods growing on the trees. They were next taken to a fermentation barn where the pods were opened and the beans taken out to dry on trays in the sun.
The next stage of the process saw the beans being polished by a worker who “danced” on them after tipping hundreds of beans into a large metal pot.
They moved on to another part of the plantation, where Roselyn Alfonse was roasting the beans before cleaning them, grinding them and then pounding them into a paste before rolling them into sticks Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall also practiced grinding cocoa beans with a manual mill.
Mr. Lamontagne offered Their Royal Highnesses some cocoa sticks and they held them up to their noses to smell the distinctive chocolate aroma.
Then there is the initiative started by the Lamontagnes to preserve St. Lucia’s architectural heritage. They have saved several old wooden buildings from bonfire. As wood gives way to concrete, the Lamontagnes dismantle condemned colonial structure, rebuild and restore them in the gardens as Fond Doux and then offer them as holiday accommodation. His Royal Highness lends his seal to an architectural heritage foundation in Great Britain.
The Royal visit has given Fond Doux international visibility. “we had the eyes of the world on us. Now international visitors come to us because H.R.H was here. It really set the standard for us” says Eroline Lamontagne.
After years of hard work maintaining the organic label and creating one of the most peaceful havens on earth to spend a vacation, the lamontagnes appreciate this royal mark of approval.
“It means we are doing something right” says Lyton Lamontagne. To underscore the point, the British newspaper, the guardian voted Fond Doux Estate one of the five best plantation retreats…in the world. The Duchess of Cornwall intends to return on holiday with her grand children.