In the first place, we will learn about what is a cacao tree. ” A cacao tree is also called the cocoa tree. s a small (4–8 m (13–26 ft) tall) evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make cocoa mass, cocoa powder, confectionery, ganache, and chocolate.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobroma_cacao
How to harvest cocoa trees?
Usually, ripe cocoa pods are ripe and mature when they are red, yellow or purple coloured. Other varieties tend to ripe when they are orange coloured. The fruits grow from the trunk or the branches. During the year the pods need to be harvested since they do not ripe all together in the tree. With a curved knife, the pods are harvested from the trunks, when cutting the fruit the cutter has to be very careful since a deep wound on the trunk will damage where other flowers may appear to produce more fruit.
- The pods are opened with a machete to expose the seeds. The seeds and pulp are extracted and the rid is discarded. The pulp and seeds are then piled in heaps, placed in bins, or laid out on grates for several days. During this time, the seeds and pulp undergo “sweating”, where the thick pulp liquefies as it ferments. The fermented pulp trickles away, leaving cocoa seeds behind to be collected. Sweating is important for the quality of the beans, which originally have a strong, bitter taste. If sweating is interrupted, the resulting cocoa may be ruined; if underdone, the cocoa seed maintains a flavour similar to raw potatoes and becomes susceptible to mildew. Some cocoa-producing countries distil alcoholic spirits using the liquefied pulp.
- A typical pod contains 20 to 50 beans and about 400 dried beans are required to make one pound (880 per kilogram) of chocolate. Cocoa pods weigh an average of 400 g (14 oz) and each one yields 35 to 40 g (1.2 to 1.4 oz) dried beans; this yield is 40–44% of the total weight in the pod. One person can separate the beans from about 2000 pods per day.
- The wet beans are then transported to a facility so they can be fermented and dried. They are fermented for four to seven days and must be mixed every two days. They are dried for five to 14 days, depending on the climate conditions. The fermented beans are dried by spreading them out over a large surface and constantly raking them. In large plantations, this is done on huge trays under the sun or by using artificial heat. Small plantations may dry their harvest on little trays or on cowhides. Finally, the beans are trodden and shuffled about (often using bare human feet) and sometimes, during this process, red clay mixed with water is sprinkled over the beans to obtain a finer color, polish, and protection against molds during shipment to factories in the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Drying in the sun is preferable to drying by artificial means, as no extraneous flavours such as smoke or oil are introduced which might otherwise taint the flavour.
- The beans should be dry for shipment (usually by sea). Traditionally exported in jute bags, over the last decade, beans are increasingly shipped in “mega-bulk” parcels of several thousand tonnes at a time on ships, or in smaller lots around 25 tonnes in 20-ft containers. Shipping in bulk significantly reduces handling costs; shipment in bags, however, either in a ship’s hold or in containers, is still common.