Where does the coca bean come from

The source of the cocoa bean that makes the delicious chocolate that is used at Hamiltons Chocolates.

Africa is the main overall cocoa supplier, with 75% of the world’s cocoa crop. For the small farms in the many thousands of African villages, cocoa cultivation represents an important source of income.

The cocoa tree is only found in the tropical equatorial forest. The young cocoa trees only thrive in the protective shadow of tall-growing plants such as banana plants or palm trees. After 5 years the trees begin to bear fruit and one tree can produce close to 2,000 pods a year.

From flowering to the cocoa pods becoming fully grown takes 6 months. The ridged, football shaped pod, or fruit of the cacao grows straight out of the trunk of the cocoa tree. Because the trees are too fragile to climb, harvesting is done on the ground by workers who wield a machete on the end of a long pole. The workers open the pods by hand, taking care not to damage the beans inside. Harvesting takes place twice a year.

The cocoa beans are then removed from the pods and left to ferment for five to seven days. This takes place on the ground or in trays where the beans are covered with banana leaves.

During the fermentation stage the beans change colour from beige to purple and develop their aroma.

After fermentation the beans are spread out and left to dry in the sun for about six days.

When the beans are dry, the cocoa farmers bring their harvest to a collection centre where the beans are graded.

The beans are then weighed and packed into bales of 50-60 kg, the jute sacks are sealed and the source and quality of the beans is assured.

Thousands of sacks of cocoa are taken from the collection centre to huge warehouses where their origins all registered and after a second quality control the sacks await shipment to the different chocolate processing plants around the world.

Date: 15/03/2011