Crop for Shipment
The cocoa beans or seeds that are removed from the pods are
put into boxes or thrown on heaps and covered. Around the beans
is a layer of pulp that starts to heat up and ferment. Fermentation
lasts from three to nine days and serves to remove the raw bitter
taste of cocoa and to develop precursors and components that
are characteristic of chocolate flavor.
Fermenting is a simple "yeasting" process in which the sugars
contained in the beans are converted to acid, primarily lactic
acid and acetic acid.
The process generates temperatures as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit,
which kill the germ of the bean and activate existing enzymes
in the beans to form compounds that produce the chocolate flavor
when the beans are roasted. The result is a fully developed
bean with a rich brown color, a sign that the cocoa is now ready
Drying is Important
Like any moisture-filled fruit, the beans must be dried if they
are to keep. In some countries, drying is accomplished simply
by laying the beans on trays or bamboo matting and leaving them
to bask in the sun. When moist climate conditions interfere
with sun-drying, artificial methods are used. For example, the
beans can be carried indoors and dried by hot-air pipes.
With favorable weather the drying process usually takes several
days. In this interval, farmers turn the beans frequently and
use the opportunity to pick them over for foreign matter and
flat, broken or germinated beans. During drying, beans lose
nearly all their moisture and more than half their weight.
When the beans are dried, they are prepared for shipping in
130 to 200 pound sacks. They are seldom stored except at shipping
centers, where they await inspection by buyers.
Marketing for export
Buyers sample the quality of a crop by cutting open a number
of beans to see that they are properly fermented. Purple centers
indicate incomplete fermentation.
If the prevailing crop is found satisfactory, the grower is
paid at the current market price. The market price depends not
only on the abundance of the worldwide crop and the quality
of farmers' crops in a number of countries, but on a number
of economic conditions throughout the world. The industry has
set up Cocoa Exchanges, similar to stock exchanges, in principle
cities such as New York, London, Hamburg and Amsterdam.