This value chain shows how a cacao bean from a farmer’s hands turn into a consumer’s bar of chocolate.
The chain begins by planting a cacao bean (which is the same as the bean). For increased productivity, cacao beans are not planted directly onto the ground. A bean is first inserted in a small bag filled with healthy soil (with the right balance of rock, soil, sand and other organic materials). Once the bean sprouts in that small bag, it is grafted with a scion, which is a small branch from the desired cacao variety (Curious about what varieties there are? Click here and learn which one best suits your interest). With proper grafting practices, the sprout and the scion will merge into a single seedling and grow into the height and size that is ready to be planted on the ground. Know more about CIDAMi’s technical training on Proper Seedling Grafting and other insights on caring for a cacao nursery or plant here (or follow us on Facebook to get updates on training schedules).
GROWING THE CACAO TREE
Seedlings that have been grafted with the desired cacao variety are planted directly onto the ground. The cacao tree loves tropical, plain and flood-free farmlands. The Davao Region is a prime location to propagate cacao trees. They need a space of at least three meters from each other and can be intercropped with other fruit trees. Learn how one cooperative did this with their banana plantation (read their story here). Read about the business benefits of intercropping with coconut from the Philippine Coconut Association (PCA)Â presentation here. With proper pruning and caring, cacao trees can maintain an ideal height and production level. It can even begin to significantly bear fruit after two years. However, the peak production typically is at its fifth year according to the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). Get the necessary training to grow a productive cacao farm from CIDAMi’s Cacao Doctorsâ€™ Seminar (follow us on Facebook to get updates).
HARVESTING OF PODS
When the trees are ripe with cacao fruits that are called pods, it is time for harvest. A cacao tree typically has two harvesting seasons in a year, but this can be greatly affected by farming challenges. A cacao pod that is ready for harvest may appear differently with every variety. When the external husk is cracked open, there are beans wrapped in white meat found at the centre of the pod. The number of beans can range between 20 to 50, depending on the cacao variety (learn more about how many varieties there are here). Both the external husk and the white meat are removed. Only the beans move on to the next stage of the value chain.
FERMENTING AND DRYING OF BEANS
Fermenting beans is a critical step to allow the cacao flavour to seep into the bean. Beans that forego this process will have no value. Fermentation involves placing the beans in a specific box and leaving them for a few days. They are then dried properly using natural daylight or using a mechanised dryer. The dried beans are then placed in sacks and are already ready for export or trading. The farmer often has an agent, trader or export partner who buys his dried beans and delivers it to a cocoa processors. The term processors encompasses the players who are responsible for roasting, grinding, pressing, conching, moulding and packaging cocoa beans into chocolate products.
Roasting and Grinding – end product: cocoa liquor
The dried beans are first roasted just like coffee beans would be. When it goes through grinding, the outer shell of the bean is removed. What is left is a little nib, which is located at the heart of the bean. The nib is where all chocolate comes from. During roasting, the heat helps soften the cocoa butter in the nib, and this helps turn the nib into a pasty material called cocoa liquor. This cocoa liquor is solid at room temperature and is what is known as unsweetened chocolate according to the WCF.
Pressing – end products: cocoa butter and cocoa cake
The cocoa liquor can still be further processed through pressing. Using a special machine, the liquor can be pressed to the point that the cocoa butter separates from the solid portion. The cocoa butter is often used in cosmetic products or added to chocolate to make it smoother. It is what is commonly referred to as white chocolate. The solid parts are called the ‘cocoa cake. This can be refined to produce cocoa powder. The powder can be alkalised, a process referred to as dutching, and the product is what is referred to as Dutch processed cocoa powder.
Conching and Chocolate Making – chocolate bars
Cocoa liquor can also be mixed in with sweeteners and other additives and refined to make chocolate bars. The process of mixing different ingredients to create the smooth texture of chocolate that is ready to be eaten is called conching. From conching, semi-sweet and milk chocolates are developed. By tempering and moulding these kinds of chocolates and adding nuts, rice crisps, caramel fudge and others, specialty chocolate bars are made. After packaging the specialty chocolate products, they are shipped to distributors and ultimately, to the hands of chocolate lovers.