Saturday, April 14, 2012
The "Guavaberry: Legendary Folk Liqueur" Story
It was an ordinary day. But, this story really starts as darkness arrives ...... every evening when Carol and I head up the stairs to bed with our cat Otis, we pass it. We bought it at a market stand in the center of Marigot, on the island of St. Martin. The vendor rolled it up for us and after returning home I stretched it, wrapped it around the edges, and put a few staples in it to hold it tight. Those nights when the spotlight is on as we reach the top step, it looks so neat. Other nights when the stained glass table light that I made is on, it has a soft glow to it. We have had the canvas print for maybe eight to ten years now and never tire of it. The painting features locals harvesting Guavaberries to make the national liqueur of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. It was painted by a St. Martin islander by the name of Francis. St. Martin is the French side and Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of this rather small island in the Caribbean with dual national ownership. The liqueur was first made centuries ago in private homes and soon became a part of local culture and tradition and was a featured drink during the Christmas season. Guavaberry liqueur is made from aged rum, sugar and naturally Guavaberries. The Guavaberry fruit is found primarily in the hills near the center of the island where there are more Guavaberry trees than anywhere in the world. At times the fruit rots on the trees, unharvested, because the Guavaberry is not as popular as it was 100 years ago. The fruit, which is about the size of a cranberry, is anywhere from yellow-orange to dark-red and has the tanginess taste of a guava, but also has a fair sweetness. I have found that you need to acquire a taste for the Guavaberry, but when you do, it will be a favorite. The Guavaberry fruit is hard to harvest, there is no traditional harvesting season, even though the Christmas season is when most harvesting is done, and the berries have very little flesh. The berry also has a very small or no stem and grows attached directly to the branch. Filling a five-gallon bucket during a picking day is a real chore. The Guavaberry is used to make jam, drinks, and for medicinal purposes. On the Dutch side of the island lies the capital of Philipsburg. It is here on Front Street that the Guavaberry Emporium can be found. Here they sell the rare "island folk liqueur" that was originally made 100 years ago in private homes on the island. At the Guavaberry Emporium you can sample the varieties that they sell in square bottles; flavors such as the original, lime, and mango. To me, the original has a fruity, smoky, bittersweet tang. I enjoy it better when added to coconut as a Guavaberry colado. The Emporium is a charming Creole cottage painted in bright red, white, and yellow colors with a huge square Guavaberry bottle featuring Old Man Guavaberry by the entrance. Inside you will find Claudine who was featured on the Family Living Network show "Three Sheets." Neat lady who can tell you anything you want or need to know about the Guavaberry as well as sell you a large variety of products that are featured in the store. If you're ever on the island, look for me at the Guavaberry Emporium and I'll treat you to we can toast a Guavaberry coloda. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: our painting of Guavaberry harvesting on Sint Maarten by Francis, the Guavaberry, bottle and glass of liqueur featuring Old Man Guavaberry, LDub in from of the Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street in Sint Maarten, and Claudine posing for a photo in front of her shelves of liqueur. Following are two YouTube videos: first one is a promo for The Guavaberrry Emporium and the second is an original song recorded on July 17, 2010 on the island called "Guavaberry Rum"