“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.
After 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.
After 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.
Once dried, cacao beans can be stored for 4-5 years.
Not quite dry enough.
A sample of the cacao beans in the different stages of drying.
Ahhh…perfect and ready to make chocolate.
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.
After 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.
Most 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.
I 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.
I am so anxious to make chocolate. I hope the new pods on our cacao tree live long and prosper.