Processing the Cocoa Bean
So, how exactly does a knobbly looking pod, filled with a load of little beans end up being a delicious bar of smooth, creamy chocolate? Well, there’s a pretty complicated process involved and I’m happy to leave it to the professionals and just enjoy the end results.
Cocoa pods are ready to pick when they’ve turned green. They have to be harvested at just the right time to ensure the correct amount of cocoa butter, which in turn will have a big impact on the final flavour of the chocolate. The seeds are removed from the pod, along with the rind and the rest of pod is tossed aside, no longer required.
After harvesting comes fermentation and this is basically the process that separates the seeds from the pulp and begins the transformation into the more recognizable and usable cocoa beans. All the seeds and pulp are laid out on racks for a number of days. The pulp goes gooey and drains away, leaving behind the wonderful seeds. It’s at this stage that the seeds are promoted and can now be called ‘beans’.
The beans then need to dry out completely before they can be used to create chocolate. This can be done naturally under the blazing sun, or artificially in big heated vats. Most producers choose the natural method and I have to say I like the idea of my cocoa beans having a bit of a sunbathe.
And now the beans are ready to safely stored before undergoing a magical transformation into chocolate.