Cacao in Latin- Theobroma- literally means, “food of the gods”. In the earliest, the Mayans used cacao to create ritual beverage, shared during betrothal and marriage ceremony. This is also the first link between chocolate and romance. 100 years after the Spaniards were introduced to chocolate, they keep the secret of production to themselves. The cacao tree is originated from Central Americas and parts of Mexico. It grows in a limited geographical zone of 20 North and South of the Equator. Nowadays, top cacao beans are produced in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Dominican Republic.
It is a hard manual work, as it needs close and continuous attention. The flowers and bears fruit throughout the entire year. It produces large cacao pods and each cacao pod contains about 20 to 30 seeds – also known as the beans. A whole year crop of a cacao tree has around 500g of cacao. After harvest, the ripe pods need to be cut open machetes and beans are taken out. The beans need to be fermented, dried, cleaned and packed. When the beans are packed, the farmers are ready to sell the product to intermediaries.
It is the unprocessed beans ready to sell to exporters. The grinding companies in the global North will process the cacao. The beans are crushed and the shells are removed, roasted, and finally ground. Cacao liquor – is used to manufacture chocolate, or it is further processed for cacao butter and powder.
From Felchlin Switzerland website
The cacao tree is best within 15 North and South of the Equator. It also requires a consistent climate with temperature of approximately 25 C with high humidity. The trees can be found near mountains, coasts and on islands. The noble fine flavour of cacao is divided into three categories. First is the rare, which also called as Criollo. Second, is the versatile – called Forastero, which is the commonly grown cacao. Third is the hybrid – called Trinitario, which is the Criollo combine with Forastero. The harvest season is at the end of the wet season. In Africa, a wooden stick may also be used to harvest the cacao. During the fermentation, acetic acid is produced and evaporates with time and takes up to 5 days. Last is the sun drying process that the cacao will be laid under the sun and regularly mix with a wooden rake. The flavour is due to the period of drying. The process takes between 5 and 6 days. The moisture content should not be more than 6.5% as this is to prevent mould. It is sorted into size and quality, tested by hand or simple selecting appliances. It must be sure that no insects infest the beans and the containers need to be sufficiently ventilated to prohibit the formation of mould.Continue reading “Cacao, Cocoa or Chocolate?”