Whether it’s grown from a seed or grafted onto rootstock, cocoa is a fairly difficult tree to grow, which is why it is always nurtured as a seedling first, before being planted out on the farm. Even then they can’t be left to fend for themselves as cocoa is a fragile tree – needing both shade and sunshine, frequent rain and protection from winds, pests and diseases.
At our own Rabot Estate on Saint Lucia, all new seedlings are created by grafting. It’s a process by which cuttings from our most prized trees can be grown on strong and productive rootstock. It is more expensive and time consuming than growing from seeds, but it allows us to control precisely which trees we propagate and get quicker yields.
We have worked with university experts to identify the DNA of the old and rare cocoa trees on our estate, which we then propagate to create new seedlings with which to repopulate and expand our historic estate. If you visit us at our Hotel on Rabot Estate you can take part in the Tree to Bar Experience and see for yourself our seedlings nursery. You’ll be able to create your own seedling, which will be labelled and planted out – so you can go back and visit it!