How are Cocoa Beans Grown and Harvested?

Cocoa beans are flat, oval-shaped seeds that contain 53 to 58 percent oil. Cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder made from cocoa beans are widely used in chocolate, cosmetics, beverages, bakery products, etc. So do you know how cocoa beans are grown and harvested? Follow me to see the content below.

Cocoa beans are the product of the cocoa tree. The cacao tree is a tropical sycamore tree that grows 15 to 25 feet tall in captivity, but can reach heights of over 60 feet in the wild. The average lifespan of a cacao tree is about 25-30 years, with a maximum of 40 years. The cocoa fruit is a pod, and the cocoa beans are wrapped in a sweet and sour white pulp.

How are Cocoa Beans Grown and Harvested
How are Cocoa Beans Grown and Harvested

Growing Cocoa Trees:

The origin of cocoa beans is mainly distributed on the land between 20 latitudes north and south of the equator. Because of the hot climate and rainy environment, it is most suitable for the growth of cocoa beans. Cocoa plantations are usually located in valleys or coastal plains and must have evenly distributed rainfall and fertile, well-drained land. At present, the main producing areas of cocoa beans are Central and South America, West Africa and Southeast Asia. The main planting area in mainland China is Hainan.

With pruning and careful cultivation, most species of cacao trees will begin to bear fruit in their fifth year. With the best care, some tree species even have good harvests in their third and fourth years. It is generally believed that after twenty-five years, the economic usefulness of a single cacao tree may be considered to have reached its end, when it is appropriate to replant it with a young cacao tree.

Cocoa trees bear fruit year-round, while harvesting is usually seasonal. Since cocoa trees are freely cross-pollinated, the pods form various species, including Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario cocoa beans.

Growing Cocoa Trees
Growing Cocoa Trees

Harvesting Cocoa Beans:

1. Picking ripe cocoa pods

Picking ripe cocoa pods is no easy task, and cocoa trees are fragile and have shallow roots. Growers have long-handled, hand-shaped steel knives for pickers. The steel knife is meant to reach and cut the tallest pods without hurting the soft bark of the cacao tree. The large machete carried around is used to pick enough pods on the low branches.

2. Cracking the pods

Cocoa beans are obtained by splitting the wooden shell of the pod. Usually 20 to 50 milky cocoa beans are dug out of a standard pod, and the outer shell and inner membrane of the pod are discarded. These cocoa beans are still very different from the final product we are familiar with. The milky-white cocoa beans quickly turn lavender or purple when exposed to the air. At this point, they don’t smell the familiar chocolate aroma.

Harvesting Cocoa Beans
Harvesting Cocoa Beans

3. Fermenting cocoa beans

Cocoa beans are enveloped by a layer of pulp that begins to heat up and ferment. Fermentation, which lasts three to nine days, removes the bitterness of the cocoa and produces a raw material with chocolate characteristics. The end result is dark brown, fully fermented cocoa beans.

4. Drying cocoa beans

If cocoa beans are to be preserved, they must be dried. If there is good weather, the drying process usually takes a few days. During drying, cocoa beans lose almost all of their moisture and more than half their weight.

The above is the process of growing and harvesting cocoa beans, after which the dried cocoa beans are transferred for sale.

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