Inside the Pod
Chocolate or space alien baby? This is what cacao looks like fresh from the pod.
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
Farming at Loma Sotavento is done without use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Cacao pods growing on a tree in the Dominican Republic.
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.
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
Cacao forest and shade plants growing in Loma Sotavento, DR.
Valrhona agronomists demonstrate how to graft a new branch onto a cacao seedling to form a more productive tree.
Harvesting ripe cacao pods from trees requires a special machete-like knife to hack pods down to the ground.
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
Cacao beans drying in a covered patio.
Dried Cacao Beans
Cacao at different stages of drying.
Staged fermentation boxes allow farmers to experiment with cacao at different stages (usually only a range of days) of fermentation.
The Good Stuff
Cacao beans after harvest. Is it chocolate yet?