Chocolate originates from the bean (or seed) of a tree that grows in
tropical areas of the world. This tree is called a Cacao
tree and is predominately found in countries within 10-20
degrees latitude of the equator. The trees need warm, humid weather
and loose, rich soil. They like shaded sunlight. Since cacao
trees prefer shade, banana trees, rubber trees or coconut
palms are often planted beside the cacao tree in the
The Cacao tree forms large seed pods. Inside the pods
are the beans (or seeds) which eventually become the basis for
chocolate. It takes 5-6 months for the cacao
pods to develop. The trees are generally harvested twice a
year, but can be harvested any time.
To harvest, the pods are first cut off from the tree with a machete. Each pod is opened and the beans are separated from the fibers of the pod. To make
fermented cacao products, these beans are then laid on a flat surface, covered with banana leaves and allowed to ferment. As the seeds ferment they go from a light off-white color to a purplish color and finally turn dark brown. During this process they also become wrinkled. The fermentation process takes 2-3 days.
Once fermentation is complete, these whole cacao beans are dried to a moisture content of approximately 1%. The drying of the bean greatly retards fermentation and lowers the microbial count. Once dried, these beans are ready for shipment as whole beans unless they undergo further processing to create cacao nibs, or cacao powder and cacao butter.
Non-fermented cacao products are made from the same cacao beans as described above except that once the pods are opened and beans separated there is no fermenting. That step is simply "skipped". Raw cacao products such as
non-fermented cacao powder and non-fermented cacao butter have a milder chocolate flavor than fermented cacao. The "bitter chocolate" taste that is prevalent in most chocolates is greatly subdued when there is no fermentation and non-fermented cacao/chocolate is significantly milder (not as strong).
How Cacao Nibs are Made:
Whole beans require pealing by the consumer before they can be eaten. The outside "hull" is similar to the shell of a peanut and can easily be removed. This is tedious and very time consuming, so most people prefer to purchase the nibs rather than the whole bean.
To create cacao nibs, the whole, dried beans are placed into a machine that runs a "roller" across them. This breaks up the bean and cracks the thin shell. The chaff is then removed leaving only the broken cacao bean, which is called a nib. These delicious cacao nibs do not contain any dairy, sugar, or additives. They are simply the raw, broken cacao bean that has had the outer shell removed. Many people use these nibs in smoothies. They can, also, be added to bars, cookies, yogurt, granola and trail mixes for a natural chocolate crunch. Some people use them like chocolate chips to decorate desserts! Choose from
fermented raw cacao nibs for a stronger taste that is more like bitter chocolate, and
non-fermented raw cacao nibs if you prefer a mild chocolate flavor that does not require any sweetening.
How Our Cacao Powder and Cacao Butter are Made:
Once the cacao nib has been produced, if
cacao powder and cacao butter are desired, the nibs are then placed into a machine that grinds the nib and then presses the paste so the oil (cacao butter) is gently "pressed out" or separated from the fiber, water soluble antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Raw cacao powder can be made from both fermented and non-fermented cacao beans. For a milder chocolate flavor, the
non-fermented powder (made from non-fermented beans) would be recommended. For recipes that use some type of sweetening and an intense chocolate flavor is required, the
fermented powder would be best.
Organic, Raw Cacao Butter:
Raw cacao butter made from unfermented cacao beans, like raw cacao powder, tastes and smells like chocolate, though not as strongly. It is a natural, light beige color and melts in your mouth. This is the main ingredient in white chocolate. Many people love using natural cacao butter for cookies and bars because they tend to remain soft and moist after baking and dissolve in the mouth like a chocolate candy. The separated oil/butter is not refined or processed any further. It is poured into an oval 1# mold and allowed to cool into a solid. The original cacao bean is about 1/2 oil/butter and half fiber/nutrients so for every pound of cacao powder that is produced a pound of raw cacao butter is also produced.
Organic, Raw Cacao Powder:
The "pressed cake," which is other product from the pressing contains mostly fiber and nutrients. This special cake is carefully broken up into tiny flour-like particles which is then known as cacao powder.
- Raw Cacao powder from nibs that have not been fermented is not bitter and has a rich, sweet chocolate flavor. Its ORAC score is 1549 μmole TE/g!
- Raw Cacao powder from nibs that have have been fermented has a bitter chocolate flavor and has a rich, sweet chocolate flavor. Its ORAC score is 1377 μmole TE/g!
None of our cacao products have been roasted or alkalinized (a process that uses Sodium Hydroxide to enhance the chocolate flavor).