1.Checking for Ripeness
Cacao picking is a difficult task because cacao pods don’t always ripen at the same time – even when they’re on the same tree.
Once a producer knows their crop is ready to harvest, they can start to hand-pick the pods. Since cacao pods ripen at different times, mechanization isn’t possible. Often a machete or a specialized knife will be used.
3. Pod & Bean Separation
The picker picks the pod and puts it in a basket. They take them to a central area within that orchard. Within that area, two pickers will place a wooden box and sit across each other and, with a little machete that is not sharp, they will break the pod.”
Fermentation is when sugars and starches are broken down into acids or alcohol. It’s a key stage in the production of many types of food and drink, including coffee, alcohol, and cacao. Without fermentation, we could never have chocolate.
Cacao is fermented in wooden boxes the same day the harvesting happens. The next morning, at around 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, you switch the cacao from one box to another.
Once you’ve turned it, you close the top with banana leaves and leave absolutely no gaps for the air to come in. That way you don’t oxidise your beans. You leave the beans covered for 48 hours. After those 48 hours pass, turn them again, cover once again, and then turn them every 24 hours [until at least 6 days has passed]
Finally, after the lengthy fermentation process, your beans are ready to be dried. This is another crucial step in the enhancement of cacao flavor.
According to the ICCO, the drying stage should bring humidity levels down from 60% to 7%. Just like with coffee, it’s important to periodically turn the beans to ensure they dry evenly.
Finally, after the drying stage, cacao beans are now ready to be aged. This step can last from 30 days up to a year. The beans are stored in sacks in a storage house.
Now, the cacao is finally ready to be stored until it’s time for the cocoa process to begin.