Almost Everyone loves chocolate! but a lot of people have no clue where it comes from. Chocolate actually comes from the beans of a pod fruit that comes from the cacao tree.
For a very long time, it was thought that there are 3 varieties of cacao
Criollo - rarest and most flavorful cacao
Forastero - Over 80% of the worlds cacao, is much hardier and less susceptible to diseases. It has a much higher yield than the Criollo
Trinitario - Cross breed between criollo and Forastero
however research showS that there are more varieties out there!
Cacao trees only grow in particular temperature, rainfall, humidity, light, and shade (yes, shade!). Some areas around 20 degrees above or below the equator is the ideal environment.
It takes 2-3 yrs after planting for the trees to bear fruit. and there's only 1 harvest per year! One tree's annual harvest is only enough to make about 500g of chocolate!
Beans are manually harvested when they ripen. Fruit pods are manually split open to extract the fleshy beans inside the pod. this is done via banging 2 pods together or by using Itak or machetes.
Beans are then fermented in wooden boxes and covered in banana leaves for about 7 days! proper temperature has to be maintained via turning the beans.
The beans are then sun dried for about another 7 days or until desired moisture levels are reached.
Chocolate makers then get their hands on the dried beans and make them into chocolate by roasting, peeling, grinding, couching. there are various ways to go about these which will be in one of our next topic!