Chocolate in My Veins

“What is happening to me happens to all fruits that grow ripe.
It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


I awoke to find three chocolate (Cacao) pods ripening on our Cacao tree. For five years, the tiny blossoms clung to the trunk of the tree, yet never produced fruit. Last year, our grand Pera tree, which was shading our Cacao tree, snapped and fell to the ground scattering ripe Pera fruits in all directions. When Great Trees Fall

Although, it was a tragedy to see my great Pera fall, the sun caressed and coaxed the Cacao tree into producing fruit…for the first time ever! I am thrilled! I’ll soon have chocolate in my veins to quiet my soul.

Many beautiful flowers, however only a small percentage (as low as 1%) of these flowers will actually produce a cacao pod.

When we visited El Castillo on the San Juan River, we toured a cacao bean processing cooperative.
IMG_6744After the cacao beans are removed from the pod, they are fermented to remove the mucilage, stop the bean from germinating, and to begin flavor development. They bring the beans to a central fermentation area where they are fermented in wooden boxes for up to six days. Fermentation is essential to the development of a high quality cacao bean that will be transformed into gourmet chocolate.
IMG_6745After fermentation, the beans are dried, bringing the humidity of the beans down to between 6% and 8% for storage and export.They are continually raked so that they will dry more evenly. The drying process can take up to a week; however, if the beans are dried too long they will become brittle. If they are not dried long enough they run the risk of becoming moldy.
IMG_6746Once dried, cacao beans can be stored for 4-5 years.
IMG_6747Not quite dry enough.
IMG_6748A sample of the cacao beans in the different stages of drying.
IMG_6749Ahhh…perfect and ready to make chocolate.
IMG_6752 They are first cleaned to remove any debris. Next, the beans are roasted to darken the color and to further bring out the flavor characteristics of the cacao. After roasting, the beans are “winnowed” to remove the shells from around the bean, leaving only the roasted cocoa nib, which is the key ingredient for making chocolate.
IMG_6756After roasting and winnowing, the cocoa nibs are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor (a.k.a cocoa mass). Despite the name, chocolate liquor has absolutely no alcoholic content. Chocolate liquor can either be used directly in the production of chocolate bars or further processed to separate the fat, known as cocoa butter, from the cocoa solid, leaving cocoa presscake. Cocoa butter is used in chocolate bars and beauty products. Cocoa presscake is milled into cocoa powder to be used for baking cocoa and hot cocoa.
IMG_6761Most of the beans are exported. Yet, they save some of the beans to show how chocolate is made. Ron is the quality control guy. I think it passed his inspection.
IMG_6764I think a job as a chocolate tester would be perfect for me. After all, it is the chocolate running through my veins that quiets my soul.
IMG_6762I am so anxious to make chocolate. I hope the new pods on our cacao tree live long and prosper.

23 thoughts on “Chocolate in My Veins

  1. so much work that must go into a good piece of sumptuous chocolate! So glad your tree is finally bearing fruit. There is such a sense of satisfaction when your trees are finally doing what they are meant to be doing. I have a small orchard I started planting 8 yrs ago and still waiting for one or two trees to produce their first fruit.

  2. I’d love to be a chocolate taste tester too – at last, the perfect job for me! 🙂 We visited a couple of cacao bean farms while we were in Nicaragua and also saw one in Costa Rica. So fascinating to learn about how the chocolate is produced and we even had a chance to make our own candy bar which was great fun. The flowers are so delicate – you must be thrilled to have this right in your backyard, Debbie! Anita

    • The flowers are so tiny and they are very delicate. They are about the size of my fingertip and they grow right out of the trunk of the tree. I can see why most of them don’t survive. Keep your fingers crossed that the pods develop. I checked on the pods of our Jackfruit tree, first pods, and they withered up and died. 😦

  3. Debbie- this is a very fascinating post. I love chocolate,too. Now I appreciate it even more after seeing your photos and learning about the tree, flowers, beans, and processing! For the smell of chocolate…. That memory comes from a visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania… But that’s another story 😉

  4. Your own chocolate. How exciting. When in Costa Rica a few years ago, we visited an organic farm that had, among other things, cacao. The woman showing us the farm opened a pod, which didn’t really like something to eat but more like something from a sci-fi movie,, the slimy pod from which bad things emerge. She invited us to try, so I braved it. It was very interesting tasting, but the chocolate they produced from these pods was incredible.


    • Ha, ha, Janet. It does look like a slimy mess, not something you want to eat. The same goes for cashew fruits. I never knew you could eat the fruit, too. I kind of like the fruit of the cacao, but not the cashew. It tastes really bitter to me.

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