Theobroma cacao otherwise known as (Food of the Gods) is a very delicate tree that is found in tropical countries within 20 degrees north and south of the equator also known as the ‘cacao belt’. Used as food, medicine and currency in Meso-American times it was reserved for the ruling class and the elites because of the belief that it was tied to their deities. Cacao has been cultivated throughout Mexico, Central and South America since 900 BC
Cacao trees are unique in that they can only be pollinated by small insects with the flowers opening only during the night. Each tree regulates its pod load with 10,000 flowers generating only 10 to 50 Pods. The cacao pods grow straight off the trunk of the tree, and in each pod is approximately 30 to 50 beans surrounded by a sweet white pulp. The pods take 150 to 180 days to ripen with typically two main crops per year, a main and a mid crop.
The pod maturity is measured by its colour, with different varieties having different colours and shape depending on their genetics. Until recently Theobroma Cacao was commonly split into three primary genetic varieties; Criollo, Forestero and Trinitario (a cross between Criollo and Forestero). This classification however has been over simplified and it is now clear that the genetic representation of Theobroma Cacao is far more complex.
After the pods reach maturity they are harvested. Great care is used not to damage the branches or the nodes where the pods have grown to ensure pod re growth. The pods are delicately selected and removed from the trees individually by hand by carefully cutting the stem which attaches the pods to the tree.
Once the pods are cut from the trees they are stacked and cut open to remove the beans/pulp. Once opened, the naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria very quickly begin ‘eating’ the sugars of the pulp.
Fermentation occurs by natural environmental yeasts reacting with the sugary pulp surrounding the beans. Without fermentation the beans will never taste like chocolate.
The beans are initially gathered in big piles and as fermentation begins, the temperature will begin to rise and in turn the pulp will begin to breakdown and run off.
The beans are typically fermented in wooden containers. The containers are arranged over many levels which allow the beans in each container to be tipped into the other container in a cascading fashion.
Fermentation usually runs between 3 to 7 days with 3 days for fine flavour beans and 5 to 7 days for well fermented high cocoa beans.
After the beans have been fermented they need to be dried. The best method is by sun drying in solar dryers where the beans are allowed to dry slowly at a perfect rate within 5 to 7 days. This slow process ensures the optimal bean moisture content of 6 to 8 % is achieved.Once dry they are collected and bagged in sacks ready for export. Once the beans reach our factory we turn them into exquisite chocolate.