How is Raw Cacao Made? – 6 Step Process
Ever wondered what it actually takes to produce raw cacao? If chocolate’s your thing, you’ll want to read on. We share everything from the growth of the cacao bean to the finished product ready to be enjoyed and indulged in! There are many steps involved, and we go over them all.
1. It All Starts With a Cacao Tree
If chocolate growing on trees sounds unbelievable to many, matter of fact, it’s true. The cacao tree (also called Theobroma Cacao) is grown in tropical climates across the globe. These trees produce cacao pods that grow on the branches and trunk of the tree. Interestingly, the pods don’t all ripen simultaneously. They also grow in different colors and shapes, depending on the variety of the plant. To harvest these pods at the correct time, a certain level of expertise is needed. It’s important to remove the pods without damaging the tree’s flowers, so a machete is often used for the harvest, leaving flowers to blossom and eventually turn into new cacao pods.
2. Opening the Cacao Pods
There are two ways to open a cacao pod – either to carefully cut it open by hand and preserve the pods, or to crack them open using a machete, a hammer, a wooden muddler, or any tool hard and heavy enough to get the job done. Once the pods are open, you will discover cacao beans covered in white cacao pulp – something that is also edible, and can be made into a smoothie, or otherwise discarded. It may be tempting to bite into the cacao beans to experience a delicious chocolate taste, however, this experience will likely turn out to be surprisingly bitter and rather unpleasant. The beans must be fermented and roasted first!
3. Time to Ferment: Cacao Fermentation Process
Cacao fermentation is an important process of producing yummy-tasting chocolate, and can take up to a few days, depending on which method is chosen. Once the beans are exposed to oxygen, the cacao fermentation process can begin. The traditional way to ferment cacao beans is by placing them within a structure of banana leaves in a warm place and allowing the beans to naturally start increasing their temperature to around 40-50ºC, checking them every day, mixing, and turning them around. Following this step, the beans can be placed in direct sunlight or a dehydrator to allow them to dry.
4. Roasting Cacao Beans
It’s now time for a good roast! Roasting the Cacao beans serves many important purposes in producing the best quality chocolate – roasting helps to develop a rich and bountiful flavour, kills any bacteria on the beans, gets rid of the remaining liquid content, and very importantly, separates the outer shell from the inner bean which contains cacao nibs. Roasting Cacao beans can be as simple as placing them in an oven for 15-20 minutes for a light roast. If you ever want to give making raw cacao at home a go, don’t be surprised about hearing popping sounds – this is the air pockets escaping the beans, and it is perfectly normal thing to happen! Almost there!
5. Let’s Crack the Cacao Beans
Once the Cacao beans are done roasting, the outer shell should come off fairly easily. Simply pressing on the beans between your fingers will be enough to loosen it up and reveal a multitude of beautifully dark cacao nibs. This is the part where we have gotten to the edible part! Cacao nibs can be consumed as they are or grinded or processed further to be made into a raw cacao paste or powder.
6. The Final Product
To go from cacao nibs to a powder or paste, it will need some further processing. If you simply grind the beans, they will end up looking somewhat similar to a cacao powder. Once you grind some more, they will start to turn become more wet and eventually turn into a paste-like substance. At this point, it is possible to play around with adding more cacao butter to the mix to create a smoother appearance, and slowly start adding powdered sugar to create a sweeter taste.
And voilà! We have gone through all the steps necessary find out how is raw cacao made!
If you ever wanted to indulge in pure, cold-processed raw cacao, we have some up here for a treat! Our raw cacao selection includes both raw cacao powder as well as raw cacao paste. These are ideal for raw cacao ceremonies, chocolate making, and drinking cacao while ensuring all vital nutrients and components are well-preserved. To learn more about the difference between Cacao and cocoa, we have written an article explaining why the store-bought cacao won’t nourish you the same way our raw cacao will! Read more here.