Although chocolate is a loved dessert, the cocoa beans, from which chocolate is made, don’t enjoy the same fame. We believe that the brown beans, that give the special chocolate it’s special flavor, deserve to be brought to the spot light, especially that it can be consumed as such, in its unrefined shape. Today, we invite you to descover the story of raw cocoa beans.
A little history…
Cocoa beans are the seeds of the tree with the same name, original from the equatorial area from the American continent. The Latin name of the tree – Theobroma cacao, which means “the food of gods”, is suggestive for its appreciation it receives.
The cocoa tree has been known for more than 3000 years, in the area where the Mayan, Toltec and Azteca civilizations used to live. They used the cocoa beans for the preparation of ceremonial beverages, but also as currency. The Spanish conquistadors introduce the cocoa beans to the Europeans, and the tree cultivation spread, at the same time with the passion for chocolate.
The cocoa tree or the place where the magic happens
Nowadays, the cocoa tree is cultivated in the areas situated at 20° north and south latitude from Equator (in America, Africa and Asia), region also known as “the cocoa belt”. The cocoa tree loves heat and moist and the soil, the climate and the precipitations from these areas make the perfect growing environment.
The cocoa beans form inside the cocoa fruits. It make around 20-30 fruits per year and each fruit has around 30 and 50 beans inside, according to its variety. The cocoa tree offers the priceless beans for about 25 years, although its life span can be one century.
Usually, we associate the cocoa with an appetizing brown. Well, the fruits in with the cocoa beans form have initially the color green, then yellow or reddish-purple and resemble with yellow elongated melons, of 15-20 cm length, each weighting around 450 grams.
The cocoa varieties
There are three big varieties of cocoa: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario.
- FORASTERO comprises around 80% of cocoa beans world wide and it is a variety that is disease resistant and very productive. The Forastero beans have a fruity flavor, of medium intensity. Amelonado is a variety of Forastero cultivated in West Africa and Brazil.
- CRIOLLO is cultivated in Indonesia and Central America, being a rare variety. The beans have a nice flavor, not very bitter, with a hint of caramel, nuts, vanilla or Tabaco and are considered true delicacies.
- TRINITARIO is a hybrid tree, obtained from the other two varieties and is originated from Trinidad. This variety is cultivated especially in the Caribbean area, but also in Cameroon and Papua New Guinea, representing about 10-12% from the world cocoa production.
From bean to you
The fruits of cocoa tree are usually harvested twice a year, during several months, period that can vary according to the climate and variety. In The Democrat Republic of Congo, the place where the cocoa beans from our shop come from, the main harvest is between September and March.
The ripe fruits are chopped from the branches and opened up, the beans are extracted along with the pulp and are stored in perforated recipients that permit draining. They are left to ferment for a few days and during this time the pulp dries and the beans develop the specific flavor and color. The thin husk that covers the beans represents the remains of the pulp.
Afterwards, the cocoa beans are dried in the sun or in special ovens in order to reduce the water content. The farmers then take them in collection centers, where they are packed in bags or containers and are afterwards shipped all over the world and conquer the hearts of gourmands.