Lyndi Jordan is a "country girl" who spent her childhood exploring her family’s acres of land in La Fillette village on the North Coast of Trinidad, where she had access to almost every imaginable local fruit.
“We have 20 different types of citrus, a variety of mangoes, pommecythere, plumrose, giant cocorite trees, Chinese tamarind, pois doux, soursop, cherries, plums, coconuts,” among other fruits, she outlined to WMN.
“My brother Lenox Junior, sister Lynissa and I grew up climbing trees. We were allowed to run loose on the estate as long as we stayed within calling distance and took a cutlass with us.”
Today, Jordan still loves to explore the estate, but for other reasons too. As production director, she plays a major role in her family business, Aurora Bitayson Ltd, which produces coconut oil, wines, syrups and jellies.
“Bitayson is patois for ‘estate’ and Aurora was my grandmother’s name. It is a three-generational business started by my grandparents in the 1950s. Although back then it wasn’t really an official business.”
Aroura, originally from Tobago, married a fisherman from Trinidad and spent her days planting root crops on the land. “She had green thumb, and everything grew so well she started selling at the market... Eventually, she opened a little parlour in the village and was encouraged to make coconut oil to sell. That was where my father, brother, sister and I got our love for the land and making oils.”
But Jordan also loves science and the ocean, so when she left TT in 2008 to study at the university of Tampa, Florida it was to pursue something that involved those two loves.
“I’m actually a marine biologist,” she chuckled, “but I didn’t practice for very long.” When she returned to TT in 2015, the call of her beloved estate was so strong she couldn’t help but answer.
“I decided to take what I learned there and apply it here. For example, my knowledge of ecology helps me to understand the land and rainfall patterns. Microbiology helps with creating products without using chemicals,” she explained, although the labels cannot say “organic” until the products are organic-certified by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the international certifying body that encourages and supports the efforts of its member states to achieve agricultural development and well-being for rural populations. The organisation’s headquarters is in Costa Rica and TT is a member state.
“There is a whole process that involves testing the soil, the air et cetera. Even though we don’t use pesticides on our plants and chemicals in our products, we can’t just slap an ‘organic’ label on our products. But we are working on it.”
With its tag line Organically driven culturally flavoured, Jordan said Aurora Bitayson is extremely conscious of the importance of the preservation of the environment.
“Our mode of pesticide is by control burns. We clear the surroundings, make fire traces and light small fires early in the morning or late afternoon when the winds are not high. We monitor to make sure it does not spread.”
Jordan literally has a hand in all the products, from start to finish. The coconut oil comes in different sizes and varieties – traditional, extra virgin or cold press, and scented. “We add lavender, rose, jasmine and peppermint to the oils that are to be used on the skin. The peppermint oil actually makes a great insect repellent.”
The wines too come in a variety of flavours, including orange, grapefruit, portugal, plum and pineapple, and can be dry, medium and sweet. “The wine formulas are all mine, but my mother has the final say on the taste because she has more experience. My brother is a chemist, so he works with me on the formulas.” The jellies and syrups come in pine, guava, sorrel, pommecythere and passion fruit flavours, and are made on demand.
But, she said, the recipes are not always by the book and to the letter.
“Everyone in my family have always liked playing around with food, so I like to tweak recipes. Grandma had a saying when we asked her what she was doing she would say, ‘making commess.’ I like to experiment and make commess,” she laughed.
Jordan said for large batches of oil, the process takes about five days.
“We crack and dig out 600 dried coconuts. Some we get from the estate, some are sourced from a supplier in Icacos. We then pack them in buckets and hydrate them.”
The coconuts are then taken to a Cariri facility to be grated. “Because it’s such a large number we pay a fee and use Cariri’s equipment. If it’s like 200, we hand grate. We’re hoping to have our own factory with grating equipment up and running in the near future,” she envisioned. Once grated, they take it back to the estate where the milk is then squeezed out and boiled.
“After boiling, we start bottling.”
The wine-making process takes a bit longer.
“We place the fruit in boiling water and allow it to cool before adding the yeast and sugar. I use a hydrometre to measure the sugar level because the sugar level will determine if a wine is dry, medium or sweet.”
Twenty-one days later the mixture is strained, and the filtrated juice is left sitting for three months.
“Wines have very long shelf life once you use good quality fruit. We have private stock that has been there for over 15 years.”
Jordan said she is always keeping current as it regards business development programmes. “Just like with the recipes, we are always tweaking our knowledge. We have to if we want to take it to the next level in the game.”
Regarding the future of the estate, she said constructing the factory is only one of the plans in the pipeline. “We are considering opening up the estate for tours. There are so many different types of birds, and the place itself is so beautiful and welcoming,” that it’s no wonder she couldn’t resist its call.
For more information visit Aurora Bitayson Limited on Facebook, follow @aurorabitaysonlimited on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org