Ah, the sweet delight of a chocolate morsel. It melts in your mouth and tastes delicious. For many of us, chocolate comes from the store, neatly wrapped and ready to be enjoyed. But where does it really come from? A humble bean.
Cocoa beans are found inside a tropical fruit harvested from the cacao tree. These trees grow in tropical regions such as West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America. According to the National Confectioners Association’s Chocolate Council, West Africa is home to approximately 1.5 million cocoa farms. Collectively West Africa produces the majority of the world’s cocoa beans with the Ivory Coast being the largest producer closely followed by Ghana.
Cacao trees are delicate, and must be protected from the elements and pests. They also take about five years to begin bearing fruit and may only produce for about ten years. With a plantation spanning about 300 acres, Gyarko Farms, a subsidiary of Asanduff Group of Companies, is better able to manage the lifecycle of its cacao trees. As production in older trees wane, a new crop is beginning to bear fruit.
At harvest time, our employees use long-handled tools to gently remove ripe pods from the trees. Once collected, the pods are split and the beans extracted. Each pod contains anywhere from 20 to 50 beans. The beans are then covered, fermented, and dried using natural processes. Fermentation can take up to a week, followed by about three days of drying in the sun. Finally, the beans are inspected for quality, sorted, and bagged. They are now ready for the market.
Of course, they’re not ready to be eaten just yet. Raw cocoa beans can be processed in many ways, depending on the desired end use. For example, cocoa beans can be shelled, roasted, and ground to create a product called cocoa liquor which is then further refined for chocolate production. The beans can also be pressed, resulting in cocoa butter and cocoa “cake.” The cake product is typically ground into a powder.
No matter which type of chocolate you prefer, it all begins with tiny beans harvested from the fruit of a tropical cacao tree.