STORY OF COCOA BEAN
THE COCOA TREE
A tall, slender tree of a maximum height of 10 metres, the cocoa tree likes higher temperatures and humidity, therefore, the cocoa tree mainly grows within the area bounded by the tropics.
The fruit of the cocoa tree measures 15 to 30 cm in length and may contain between 30 and 40 cocoa beans.
EVERYTHING STARTS WITH THE HARVEST
The farmers harvest the cocoa pods twice a year. The method applied is still identical to the method developed by the Aztecs because the trees are too fragile for mechanical harvest. So everything is done manually with the aid of a machete. When the pods have been gathered and hung on poles, they ripen for another five days.
A few days after harvest, the beans are cut in two in order to release the pulp. The workers then shell each bean and form small piles in order to facilitate fermentation. Each pile is covered with banana leaves for between 3 and 9 days. The fermentation now starts. The sugar contained in the beans is transformed into acetic acid; the pulp creates enzymes which give its irresistible cocoa taste. Fermentation is complete when the beans turn a beautiful brown colour.
The whole fermentation and drying process lasts approximately 10 days.
UNDER THE TROPICAL SUN
The third stage of production is the drying. In fact, a bean cannot be packed unless it has been previously dried. In order to accelerate the reaction, some farmers use heated pipes or air canons. But most of the farmers use the sun. The fermented beans are placed on mats and take about a week to dry.
For information: it takes 400 beans to obtain a pound of chocolate and during drying, each bean loses about half of its initial weight.
The dried beans are packed in canvas sacks before beginning their long journey. When they arrive in the shipping centres, they are analysed by the potential purchasers. While waiting for their purchaser, the beans are stored in an insulated space and protected from all external stresses because they must not mix with products that have a strong odour.