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This is cacao!  Oh sweet bringer of joy and health… chocolate.  When you open a ripe cacao pods, it looks like this!! 

 

The white slippery covering on the cacao beans is sweet and juicy and tastes absolutely nothing like chocolate.  It tastes amazing and you can suck it off and then spit out the beans.  Amazingly, nothing is made from this white goodness, though it is fun to suck on.  They rely on ants to clean this substance off by laying the gooey beans out like this for days.  This begins the drying out process and allows the process of fermentation to occur.

 

 

 

Here are some big beautiful cacao pods hanging from cacao trees, grown “in the shadow of” plantain trees so they get just the right amount of sunshine.   

 

Then the beans are laid in the sun to dry completely, secco.  Finally, the fully dried beans are roasted or cooked and then ground into a heavenly paste which sugar is added to to make chocolate.

The cocoa beans when eaten plain do not really taste much like chocolate.  It’s the roasting, grinding, and sweetening that creates the flavors we have come to know and love.  

True “bean to bar” chocolate is this process of harvesting cacao pods, fermenting and fully drying the beans, grinding the beans, and adding sugar.  Everything else is not real – ingredients like cacao liquer, soy lechithin, etc. are not real chocolate.