Drying and Roasting Cacao Beans

When the fermentation is terminated the cacao beans are sun-dried. At this stage the smell of cocoa can be observed. In small plantations the fermented beans are spread by hand, and later turned over by hand or foot. In Central America the beans are dried on wooden floors which can be covered by a sliding roof if it starts to rain. On larger plantations electric dryers are used.

The drying process takes 1-2 weeks, and during that period the color changes from reddish brown to dark brown. The beans are then polished by a machine to obtain an improved visual appearance. Previously the beans were polished by "dancing the cacao beans"; the dancers polished the beans with their feet in a dance-like manner.

Drying fermented cacao beans.
Drying fermented cacao beans (Grenada).
Harvested Cacao Fruits
Drying fermented cacao beans (Grenada).

The cacao beans are then packed for domestic consumption or for export to cocoa and chocolate manufacturers.

The cacao beans are sometimes treated by alkali in a process called "Dutching". This process removes some of the acidity of the beans and gives a more smooth flavor and a darker color of the cocoa.

Before making cocoa and chocolate the beans are roasted to develop the final chocolate flavor. The temperature and time of roasting affects the flavor and color of the chocolate. Finally the shells are removed ("winnowed") from the roasted beans, and the beans are ready for making chocolate paste, cocoa, cocoa butter and chocolate.

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