CHOCOLATE: Food of the Gods

Harvest and Fermentation

Photograph of woman harvesting cacao pods from "The Book of Chocolate," by Nathalie Bailleux and Jeanne Bourin. Paris: Flammarion.

In an era of mechanical harvesting, cacao is harvested as it has been for centuries—by hand. The trees and omnipresent blossom clusters are extremely fragile and easily injured. They produce ripe pods year round, generally with two concentrated periods that depend upon the timing of the rainy season. After locating a ripe pod, a worker will either pluck it by hand or remove it with a sharp knife at the end of a pole.


Photograph of man fermenting cacao beans under banana leaves from "The Book of Chocolate," by Nathalie Bailleux and Jeanne Bourin. Paris: Flammarion, 1996)

The harvested pods are taken to a processing location close to the trees. Each fruit is opened, usually with a machete so that the pulp and seeds can be removed. The seeds are surrounded by a fibrous whitish pulp that must be fermented off before they can be roasted and processed.