Cocoa tree and cocoa fruit
The height of the wild cocoa tree can reach 15 meters, but usually there is the limit in 6-9 meters for the trees on the plantations. In such a way they are protected from the strong wind, and it is more convenient to reap the harvest from the small trees. In the equatorial climate the cocoa tree is in flower all year round. Its flowers have different shades, from pink to red, and they grow not only on the branches but also directly from the trunk. On the plantations the cocoa trees begin to bear fruit only after 3-5 years after planting. The fruits ripen during 5-6 months. Ripe cocoa fruit is oval and weights 300-500 grams and its color may vary from yellow to orange or red. It's possible to bear not so many fruits – from 20 to 50 units from one tree per year.
Ripe fruits are gathered from the trees and cut in two. Under coat of fruit there is a pale-pink sweet pulp and there are from 20 to 40 seeds in it with the shape like beans. Actually, it is the cacao bean – the main raw material for the production of the natural chocolate. About 2 kilograms of raw beans can be borne from one tree per year. Seeds, which are extracted from fruits, have bitter and astringent taste because of the tanning substances contained in them in great numbers. At this time the seeds are still not suitable for the chocolate production and that's why they should undergo special manufacturing.
Processing cocoa beans. Fermentation.
Raw cacao beans are strewed into the baskets, covered with banana leaves and are left in such condition for 5-6 days, stirring them from time to time. Fermentation begins in the heat inside the basket, the temperature rises to 50 °C and chemical composition of beans undergoes difficult changes. This process is called fermentation. As a result, the beans lose to 65% of their initial weight, their moisture content is reduced to 6%. The color of the beans varies from purple to brown, they get gentle sweetish-buttery flavour, and the most important – specific chocolate flavour.
Fermentation is the first and very important step of cacao beans processing. The smell, taste and quality of the future chocolate depend on how correctly and evenly the beans will be fermented.
Everybody to the factory!
Fermented cacao beans are washed and dried in the sun or in the special devices. Well dried beans are packed in the tight bags, made of natural materials and are loaded on special ships. In such a way cocoa appears on the world markets and then at the factories, where a real chocolate will be soon prepared of them.