Gallery: Behind the Scenes: Growing Cacao in the Dominican Republic

Inside the Pod
Inside the Pod

Chocolate or space alien baby? This is what cacao looks like fresh from the pod.

Harvested Cacao
Harvested Cacao

Cacao pods may come in a spectrum of colors when ripe: yellow, orange, or red. Ripeness is determined by feel and experience, rather than a particular color.

Organic Cacao Farming
Organic Cacao Farming

Farming at Loma Sotavento is done without use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Ripe Cacao
Ripe Cacao

Cacao pods growing on a tree in the Dominican Republic.

How to Start Cacao Trees
How to Start Cacao Trees

In a plantation setting, cacao plants are started from seed and planted as seedlings in the forest—usually under beneficial shade trees such as plantain or banana.

EZ-Open
EZ-Open

Cacao pods are opened by getting whacked with a block of wood, so as not to risk cutting any beans open and contaminating fermentation with any toxins.

Shaded Cacao Forest
Shaded Cacao Forest

Cacao forest and shade plants growing in Loma Sotavento, DR.

Grafting Seedlings
Grafting Seedlings

Valrhona agronomists demonstrate how to graft a new branch onto a cacao seedling to form a more productive tree.

Harvesting Cacao
Harvesting Cacao

Harvesting ripe cacao pods from trees requires a special machete-like knife to hack pods down to the ground.

Cacao Beans in the Pod
Cacao Beans in the Pod

The inside of a healthy cacao pod. Pods must be selected against black pod disease, or early germination of the seeds within, which can happen from something as simple as a bird pecking a hole into the exterior.

Time to Dry
Time to Dry

Cacao beans drying in a covered patio.

Dried Cacao Beans
Dried Cacao Beans

Cacao at different stages of drying.

Fermentation
Fermentation

Staged fermentation boxes allow farmers to experiment with cacao at different stages (usually only a range of days) of fermentation.

The Good Stuff
The Good Stuff

Cacao beans after harvest. Is it chocolate yet?