It all starts with the cacao tree Theobroma-Cacao (simply translated as "food of the gods" in Latin) which grows in areas around the equator. Naturally occurring in the upper Amazon region of Peru and originally cultivated by the Mayan and Aztec cultures, the cacao tree is the basis of all chocolate produced worldwide. But not all cocoa beans are created equal. Genetics, growing conditions and post-harvest process play a significant role and we are always looking for the highest quality to use in our chocolate.
Harvesting cacao fruits is a crucial first step in the process. The fruits develop from small pollinated flowers on the trunk of the cacao tree and it takes about 140 days for the fruit to fully ripen after pollination. It is crucial to harvest the cacao fruit when it is just fully ripe. If the fruits are harvested too early, there is not enough sugar in the pulp to start a good fermentation. If the fruits are harvested too late, sprouts may begin to develop inside the fruit. The time span for perfect ripening can be as narrow as 7-10 days. When ripe, the fruits are carefully cut from the stem by hand and collected in piles to be opened. The clusters of beans in white pulp are removed and collected. This process is usually carried out in the field, and the empty fruit skins are usually left to become compost and provide nutrients to the soil.