Cacao Farming Process

bean-to-bar cocoa bean ethical cocoa beans fine chocolate

After Harvest Process



     1. Harvesting cacao pods

Once cacao pods are ripped on the trunk and limbs of the trees -between 20 and 24 weeks after flowering- farmers proceed to manually collect them one by one using hand pruners. Since during the lifespan of a productive cacao tree -at least 30 years, although there are reports of 80 years old still in production-, flowers are located and produced at the same “floral cushions”, technically referred as “floral meristem”, farmers are very careful to avoid damaging those structures that represents the productivity of the tree.

Along every step of the story, the yield of the process will be described but for now, let's say that farmers have to gather enough cacao pods to fill up wooden fermentation boxes usually with no less than 300 kg of fresh cacao.

100 kg of cacao pods x 30% = 30 kg of fresh cacao

From 100 kg of cacao pods only 30% yield fresh cacao (30 kg) that goes into fermentation


     2. Pre-Fermentation

Before fermentation, cacao pods are broken to obtain fresh cacao which consist of cacao pulp and cacao seeds. Cacao pulp is on average 30 % of the weight of the cacao pod, it is juicy, fleshy and surrounds cacao seeds.


     3. Fermentation

Fermentation starts by filling a wooden box with fresh cacao and covering it with a “lid” of banana leaves or other materials that allow sitting fresh cacao to unchain a series of chemical reactions. The pulp releases liquid sugars that when in contact with oxygen and microorganisms in an enclosed environment, facilitate a thermic and chemical reaction that lasts between five to 8 days to produce fermented cacao beans. This is equivalent to 65% of the weight of the initial fresh cacao. At the end of fermentation, juice and pulp are gone remaining just fermented cacao beans (seeds that are not viable for reproduction).

 30 kg of fresh cacao x 65% = 19.5 kg of fermented cacao beans

From that 30 kg of fresh cacao, only 65% of it yields fermented cacao beans (19.5 kg), which then goes into the Drying Process.

     4. Drying

Fermented cacao beans obtained have to be dried during 3 to 5 days to avoid mold and fungi contamination. Commonly, this step is done on the ground at many farms in the world. In our case, we dry fermented cacao beans on top of wooden tables inside of greenhouses or movable roofs, controlling temperature and sun exposition. Only 32% of the weight of fermented beans will result in dry cacao beans. Also during this process irregular, non fermented or defective beans are removed from the batch. 

 19.5 kg of fermented cacao beans x 32% = 6.24 kg of dry cacao beans

From that 19.5 kg of fermented cacao beans, only 32% of it yields dry cacao beans (6.24 kg).

     5. Selection

Dry cacao beans are now ready to be hand sorted verifying sizes and quality of the beans, then packed in breathable poly bags to preserve flavors. When dealing with fine flavor cacao beans we prefer to pass on using nice rough burlap bags. At this stage, an additional loss of 2% in weight of dry cacao beans is normal to our standards.

6.24 kg of fermented cacao beans x 2% weight loss = 6.12 kg of selected dry cacao beans for exportation.

     6. Processing

Packed dry cacao beans now are ready to export and for chocolate makers to use them in their recipes.

From start to finish, only about 6% of product makes the cut. Quality goes into making the most out of every one of our Fine Flavour Cacao Beans. Taste the richness of our story.

Note the huge gap between the cacao pod and the dry cacao bean, which in our case is technically standardized but in other cases barely established.

Thus, a cacao pod contains 30% of fresh cacao used to fill up wooden fermentation boxes. Fresh cacao yields 65% of its weight as fermented cacao beans and from it subsequently, 32% is obtained as dry cacao beans. In this example:

From 100 kg of cacao pods x 30% = 30 kg of fresh cacao

30 kg of fresh cacao x 65% = 19.5 kg of fermented cacao beans

19.5 kg of fermented cacao beans x 32% = 6.24 kg of dry cacao beans

6.25 kg of dry cacao beans x 2% weight loss = 6.12 kg of selected dry cacao beans.

  • Francine Sotelo on

    Hi owner, Thanks for the well written post!

  • Philip on

    This helped me out with my report. TNX!

  • Mark Sciscenti on

    There seem to be some errors is writing about the processing of cocoa. The first one that I noticed is that from pollination of the flowers to ripe pods it takes between 5 to 6 months, not 12 weeks. You might want to correct that. Usually drying the cocoa takes about 14 days depending on the ambient humidity, to less than 7% moisture by weight of the beans, otherwise mold is a problem…

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published