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The Journey of Cacao - From Harvest to Production

Dried Cacao Husk with Sun Dried Cacao Beans
Dried Cacao Husk with Sun Dried Cacao Beans

You can read about the Growth of Cacao - From Seed to Harvest in our last blog Here you will follow the journey of Cacao from the harvest stage to being prepared for production.

Fermenting (once the pods have been harvested):

  • The way this is done depends on the village and country. However in essence the seeds are left in the fruit from the pod, wrapped tightly and left for 5 – 7 days.

  • The heat the beans reach within the first 24 hours is essential, and should be above 50 degrees.

  • The beans are turned daily after the first 24 hours. Refinement in this process brings out different results.

  • With Cathliro we have developed the following: The beans and fruit are placed into one tonne boxes, upon arriving into Honiara (about 90 minute drive from the farms.

  • The boxes are lined with bananas leaves from the villages and the top of the box covered with banana leaves and then heavy blankets to keep the heat in.

  • After 36 hours the beans are turned for the first time. This has proven to give better results.

  • The beans are then turned every 24 hours by rotating into an empty box next to it. It is very hot work, in 32 degrees turning beans over 50 degrees.

  • On day 6 the beans are tested (100 beans taken as samples to test if they are all fully brown in side), based on the samples the beans will be removed or allowed to ferment for another 24 hours.

  • On the farms in Samoa beans are basket fermented for 5 days. On the farms in the Solomons and Peru they are fermented in wooden boxes like Cathliro do.

Cacao Fermentation Boxes
Fermentation Boxes

Sun drying:

Again this process varies by country and village. In Samoa the beans are first washed and then spread out in the sun. This makes the sun dried bean look super clean. Samoa cacao beans are known for this.

In Peru they do not wash but spread out in a thick blanket for the first 24 hours so the beans can slowly cool down and adjust to the temperature. We have applied this process at Cathliro:

  • The beans are laid out on sun drying racks in solar houses so they do not have to be taken in at night when it often rains. This is another reason why farmers are happy to sell their wet beans as they do not have to have solar drying houses.

  • The beans are turned hourly on the first day and every second hour on the second day and then 3-4 times on the third and 4th day. Each day they are spread out more thinly so they absorb more and more direct heat.

  • By day 7 the beans should be fully dry. This is again tested. The beans should only have 7% moisture content. This is why the beans last in the tropics as most of the water has been removed in the drying.

Cacao beans on drying rack in solar house
The cacao beans on a drying rack in a solar house


  • The beans, once dried are stored in large sacks for grading. However as the beans are turned, they are meant to be graded, so very little grading is left at the end.

  • With Cathliro, the beans are poured out onto a wire mesh and checked for mould, being flat, or clumped together.

  • The beans that do not pass the quality test are either sent to the bulk market storage for sale .

  • Or if they are good enough quality, but too small, go to value adding and turned into nibs.

  • Upon final completion, the beans are stored in ute sacks, ready for sale.

  • Because of the low moisture content, they can be stored in the tropics for a long period of time.

Products that are then made from these beautiful beans are: Cacao Paste, Cacao Nibs and Cacao Husk Tea to name a few.

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