Hotel Mocking Bird Hill is one of the pioneering customers of the St Mary Multi-Purpose Cooperative, we have been purchasing their all natural chocolate teaballs as a complimentary gift item for our visitors for the past 10 years.
Homemade Chocolate Tea Balls are commonly found in all Jamaican homes, where grandmothers and mothers make them from harvested cocoa beans that have been dried, and then ground with other spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. They are shaped into balls, dried and grated into hot water with sugar, vanilla essence and sometimes a little orange rind to taste, delicious! The objective of St Mary’s Co-operative has been to develop and market a value added spice processing cottage industry which would provide employment for the women in the area.
The project assists local farmers in the surrounding communities with the procurement of seedlings, the leasing of farm lands and the provision of technical support as well as finding markets for their produce.
Founded by Father Martin of St Mary’s Catholic Church he engaged the services of Enith Bennett, a “golden ager” who had returned to Jamaica from oversees, to make Chocolate Tea balls in order to meet an order placed by an exporter and is now managed by Mrs Chuck.
Father Martin found markets for the product in hotels, craft and gift shops as well as supermarkets and employed the services of a distributor to cover the north coast area of the island. The demand grew and the project was expanded to include the packaging of spices such as pimento, nutmeg, kola nut (bissy), peppermint, cerasee and cinnamon leaves. He saw the opportunity to plant, reap and dry spices to supplement the local women’s household income and create employment for them; today 13 women are employed, many golden agers, by the co-operative in Annotto Bay, a sleepy town on Jamaica’s North coast about an hour’s drive from Port Antonio.
A collection of herbs such as Pimento & allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon leaves are packaged as further gift items that can be taken home by our guests as presents for their friends. Hotel Mocking Bird Hill has been advocating the establishment of tours to our centre for their guests, however the bad road conditions has been a deterrent to this type of development. Plans are however in progress to establish an outlet in 2013 at the Cooperative’s office at Iter Boeal, Annotto Bay. The plans including accommodating the Chocolate Factory, a Gift Shop and a “tasters Corner” as well as providing a travel halt for visitors in the area allowing them to swim in the river that runs next to the property and picnic.