Cocoa Beans: also often referred to as cacao beans or more usually simply as “cocoa” or “cacao” are the seeds of the Cacao tree. Cocoa beans start life as flowers growing from the trunk or branches of the tree. These flowers develop into small green pods known as a “Cherelles”, which eventually will mature into cocoa pods of about 15 cm in length, and turn from green to yellow, red or purple as they mature and ripen.
A mature cocoa pod has a thick leathery skin of up to 1.5 cm, although this does vary depending upon the origin and variety of the cocoa. Inside the pod, the cocoa beans are found along a central stem, and are covered in a sweet white mucus pulp. Usually up to 30 beans are found in one pod, each weighing about 1 gram. At this stage the cocoa beans are soft and pale pink or mauve in colour.
After harvesting the cocoa beans are removed from the pod, and undergo then fermentation process for 5 – 7 days. During fermentation, complex chemical reactions naturally occur within the cocoa beans, which results in the nibs (cotyledon) of the bean turning brown, and acquiring a very bitter, but recognisable “chocolate” taste.
Following fermentation, the beans are dried, usually by natural sun drying to a moisture content of 7%, prior to packing in jute bags.