a visit to Ortinola in Trinidad

In my travels abroad, I find it really cool visiting places where the things I love and enjoy consuming are grown or created. I’ll never forget the first time I saw bananas growing in their natural environment! Or the first time I visited a cocoa plantation in the Dominican Republic back in 2009. Hats off to cacao growers everywhere today and everyday as we celebrate World Cocoa and Farmers Day. 😊

For us chocolate lovers, there is nothing like visiting a cocoa farm or plantation, seeing how cacao is grown, how the cocoa is processed, and … if you’re lucky … seeing how chocolate is made from it! This is possible at the Ortinola Estate in St. Joseph, Trinidad, where all of those steps occur on this breathtaking 430-acre property located in the lush Maracas Valley.

Ortinola has a deep rich history in the world of chocolate

Now a heritage property, Ortinola was original owned by the Cadbury Brothers (of Cadbury chocolate fame) in the late 19th century. The current owners, Russell Nath and his wife Vindra purchased the property in 1999, undertaking extensive renovations (which included restoring the original woodwork in the main building of the estate is pitch pine, cype, and cedar pine) before opening it in 2004 as a special events venue. Imagine having your wedding in the idyllic setting below!

Oritonola is named after a village in Corsica, France, and captivates you with a perfect blend of old-world style and contemporary West Indies flavour. The grounds are rich with massive historic trees and brilliantly coloured vegetation.

It was such a pleasure meeting Russell Nath and sharing the love and pride he feels for everything at Ortinola.

You can take a pre-arranged tour of Ortinola. The Classic 90-minute tour gives you the opportunity to explore the beautiful property and shows you how cacao is grown and processed. The three-hour tour includes a chocolate-making component. I loved taking the tour with a family as it was so much fun to feel the joy of the children as they learned how to “dance the cocoa” (a process used to mix up the cocoa beans as they are drying in the sun and open air.)

Nikita Nath is the chief chocolatier at Ortinola. She also also leads tour groups through the family-run plantation. Here, Nikki shows us a Trinitario cacao pod–the foundation of what is used to create delicious Ortinola Great House Chocolate.

After our exploration of the Ortinola plantation, chocolatier Nikki Nath gave us an in-house presentation on how cacao is processed and made into bean-to-bar chocolate. We then enjoyed a lovely “Trini-style Afternoon Tea” lunch in the Great House and got to sample several varieties of Ortinola Chocolate. I really loved the super creamy 80% dark chocolate bar which is ground (conched) for 24 hours.

The 80% cocoa Ortinola Dark Chocolate bar has a natural creaminess due to the added cocoa butter and the fruity notes that are so common in Trinitario cacao–a highly regarded hybrid developed in Trinidad in the late 18th century. Despite being crafted with a high percentage of cocoa, this handcrafted chocolate is not bitter at all.
We enjoyed Afternoon Tea “Trini-style” at Ortinola, which included some lovely scones, chick pea bites, sandwiches, and traditional cocoa tea.

I had been in Trinidad and Tobago as an invited guest of the Cocoa Research Centre and as a speaker at their 2019 World Chocolate and Cocoa Expo. Alas, COVID-19 has interfered with the 2020 edition of this exciting event. I’ll keep you posted when the dates are set for 2021. It was tremendous discovering Ortinola Chocolate as part of this visit–in addition to other amazing Trinidadian chocolate featuring the prized Trinitario cacao that you’ll find profiled in this post. Chocolate makers of Trinidad and Tobago are extremely proud of the cocoa produced by the local farmers, and undoubtedly join us in raising a collective toast to them as we celebrate World Cocoa and Farmers’ Day on October 3rd.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

22 Responses

  1. Joaquim Lima says:

    I’m loving visiting and reading your content. Your posts are always the best!

  2. What a wonderful experience you had at Ortinola plantation! I visited the Tobago Cocoa Estate in Trinidad and had a more modest experience but still very interesting. Will check out Ortinola next time I’m in the area.
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers recently posted…7 best covid travel tipsMy Profile

    • Hi Carole & thx for your comment. I haven’t been to Tobago since I got on the chocolate trail, though I have since eaten Tobago made chocolate. It’s such a beautiful island. I’d love to go back.

  3. Ortinola looks like it would be an amazing wedding venue and their afternoon tea looks inviting too. I appreciate the background info you gave about Cadbury chocolates. I would never have guessed the connection.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…Do You Believe Conservatives are Being Censored for Telling the TruthMy Profile

  4. I wonder why Cadbury sold it? Seems to be such an elegant tropical paradise!

    • Hi Carol and thanks for your comment. Ortinola has a long and complicated past. Cadbury partnered with Tennants, a Scotch Whisky manufacturer in the ownership and management of Ortinola and the emancipation of the slave labourers definitely had an effect on creating a shortage of local labour and complications. There is a lengthy history posted at https://www.ortinola.com/history/ if you are interested in further detail.

  5. Russell Nath says:

    Hello again Doreen. Guess who ? Yes, it’s me, Russell , admittedly still in awe, humble appreciation and sincere gratitude for the wonderful and flattering sentiments expressed in the article you wrote about our ( you included , of course) beloved Ortinola.

    Ortinola’s destiny continues to unfold under my family’s stewardship / trusteeship and I hope we are being true to it. Kind comments like yours and those of your readers certainly give us the courage, enthusiasm and determination to keep going.

    My wife Vindra, my 3 children (Nikita , Avinash, and Shivana) as well as their spouses ,Savvas and Liana, all play an integral part in the further development of the estate with multi-floral mountain honey , greek almond cookies and single estate dark chocolate mousse being some of Ortinola’s additional product offerings . Of course this means that you’ll just have to make that second visit as promised–you’re always welcome , anytime .

    Our love and best wishes to you, your family and all at Chocolatour.

    Until we meet again.

    Your friend

    Russell

    • Hi Russell. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. It was great meeting you, Vindra and Nikita. Ortinola is a very special place and I do hope that I will make my way back there sometime soon. Perhaps to launch volume II of Chocolatour! It is exciting that you are expanding your product range and keeping up your very high standards. Do keep in touch.

  6. Bola says:

    It’s interesting to know that Ortinola was originally owned by the Cadbury Brothers. I would certainly love to bite into some of the 80% dark chocolate. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Your visit to the Ortinola cacao estate in Trinidad sounds so delicious! I had the pleasure of visiting a similar place in Granada–we were served hot chocolate made from their own beans. Everything tastes better the closer you are to the source!
    Pamela Dittmer McKuen recently posted…Cruise Along Chicago Waterways On a Historic FireboatMy Profile

    • Hi Pamela and thx for your comment. I’m assuming you mean Grenada (and not Granada) as I don’t believe cocoa is grown in Granada. If, Grenada, please let me know where you were. I’ve got a series of posts on my site on Grenada and had been an invited guest of the Grenada Chocolate Fest in May 2016 (can’t believe it was that long ago!) It was SO amazing.

  8. Not a good post to read when I am craving something sweet! Doreen, this looks like another lovely place to tour and steep yourself in the flavor of the areas. Looking forward to when you can travel again so I can enjoy new places!

    • Thx so much for your comment, RoseMary. I hadn’t been writing a lot of new blogs lately, as the thought of not being able to travel had made me sad. But I’ve got tons of info on places I’ve been and haven’t yet written about, so stay tuned. But a tip is to always have some kind of treat alongside you when reading my posts.

  9. Karen Warren says:

    What a wonderful place to visit – such a lot of history and of course a beautiful setting.

    • Thx for stopping by, Karen. Yes, Ortinola really does push all the buttons. Great for chocolate lovers and foodies. Historians, botanists, nature lovers and lovers of life. Definitely a place I’d love to return to.

  10. It is good to see you back out and exploring. It is a shame that the Chocolate Expo was disrupted by Covid-a9, but we are hopeful that you will be back for the next one in 2021. Stay safe!

    • Hi Jeff and Crystal. This has been a year like no other! I haven’t taken a trip since I returned home from MX in Feb. I’m fortunate to have many amazing travel memories I’ve still not written about & will try & roll those out over the next several months. I hope you’re doing well & staying safe.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…a visit to Ortinola in TrinidadMy Profile

  11. Linda Paul says:

    Thank you Doreen. I think we are all traveling virtually now. This was a pleasant escape. I was wishing for a bar of 80% Ortinola to savor as I read.

    • Hi Linda. Thx so much for your words of encouragement. I’m so glad my post transported you to Trinidad, and that you could taste the beauty of the Ortinola Chocolate as you read it. It has been difficult for me to create new content during this pandemic. I put everything I had into trying to dig deep and recover my enthusiasm for my work as I wrote this post. ❤️

  12. beverly@mymts.net says:

    The scenery at Ortinola is stunning. Thanks to your wonderful photographs and written descriptions, we feel we are there with you.

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