Cocoa beans provide an amazing number of important nutrients, which can help improve general health. However, cocoa beans do have to go through an extensive harvesting process.
Cocoa beans are derived from the Cacao tree, which is also called “Theobroma Cacao” (botanical name). Cacao trees produce a distinctive slender flower, which is small, usually pink in color. Though a cacao tree can have hundreds of flowers, usually less than five percent of these flowers actually produce cacao pods. Cacao pods are fairly large, and have a rind that is approximately 3cm thick. Inside the rind is a thick, sweet pulp that encases 30-50 cocoa beans. These beans are almond-like in shape, and range in color from pink, to purple, to light brown.
The Cacao pods are harvested from the cacao trees, usually by using a curved machete or large knife. In contrast to many other fruit-bearing trees, a cacao pods is only ready to harvest when it is green in color. If a cacao pod is red or orange in color, this means that the quality of the beans will be inferior. These inferior cacao pods are usually only used for industrial chocolate products, since the flavor is not as rich as in green cacao pods.
The rind of the cacao pod is removed, but the pulp and seeds are left together. The pulp of the cacao pod is placed with the seeds, usually on a grate or in a large bin. The pulp and beans are left for several days, which causes the pulp to ferment. This part of the cocoa bean processing is actually very important, and is also called “sweating”. The pulp of the cacao pod ferments, turning into liquid. This liquid helps cacao beans to lose their bitter taste, and creates the refined cocoa flavor that we are now familiar with. If a cacao bean is not subjected to the sweating process, it retains a taste like a raw potato.
Once the “sweating” is accomplished, the cocoa beans are spread out to dry. This is accomplished by placing the beans on large trays, and drying them with sunlight (or artificial heat). The beans need to be constantly raked, in order to be thoroughly dried. Sun-dried cocoa beans retain the best flavor, as artificial heat drying often leaves behind oil, smoke or propellant flavors. Once dried, the cocoa beans are readied for shipping, and are prepared to be used in cocoa production facilities all over the world.
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Marabel Cocoa Farms - cacao beans - Sanchez and Hispaniola cacao beans producer and importer from the Dominican Republic.
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