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  1. Bean to Bar chocolate making.

    Chocolate lovers all over the world should be thankful to this lovely tropical fruit called cocoa for providing the essential raw material for all chocolate-based products.  All bars emerge from these beans and the process is long and interesting with multiple stages. Farm Spice has a wide spectrum of customers who are chocolate and related products manufacturers who demand single origin cocoa and consistently fermented beans and bean products like cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, cocoa butter etc. These beautiful yellow pods from our farms end up as delicious bars in different chocolate products.

    Chocolate making, right from harvesting till wrapping the final product is a long and refined process which involves so many stages. Cocoa is a beverage crop which grows mostly in the tropical regions of the world. The fruit which is normally seen on the trunk and the branches of the tree contains the pod with the embedded beans in it. The ripened pods are harvested and the beans obtained by breaking the pods carefully without damaging the bean and the pulp. This juicy mix is then fermented thoroughly separating the liquid and the beans. Fermentation also helps to improve the flavour profile and the raw bitter bean starts its journey towards the bar right from the wooden boxes prepared specially for the process of fermentation. The duration of formation is between two and eight days depending upon the bean type. The next process in line is drying of the beans. Cocoa beans are often sundried for removing the moisture content left after fermentation. Protecting the stock from moisture is important because it may induce microbial action leading to damage of the beans. In places where the availability of sunlight is scarce, alternative drying techniques like open fires are used, leaving it a smoky flavour. Fermentation and sun drying are two strategically important processes which determine the flavour and final quality profile of the cocoa products. The fermented and sundried beans are packed and delivered to the customers who demand the whole beans rather than refined products like cocoa butter, cocoa nibs and cocoa powder.

    The fermented and sundried cocoa beans are not completely free from the risk of microbial attacks. They have to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before they enter the process of raw material production. These obtained beans are roasted further so that the process of flavor addition initiated during fermentation continues and the moisture retained in the beans gets reduced to the desired levels. Roasting also helps the processes of dehusking, cracking and winnowing. The roasting time may vary from five to thirty-five minutes and the temperature range is between 250 and 325 F. It also reduces the risk of infections by sterilizing the beans under high temperatures. Roasting takes place in high and monitored temperatures and the level of roasting is determined by the taste requirements and often smell and taste remain to be the major parameters. Roasting time and temperatures are decided according to the bean type mostly and the requirement for which it is processed.

    Roasting leaves the hard outer shell thinner which can be broken easily either manually or with the help of machines. High temperature is maintained initially to give the beans the optimum heat level to initiate the process. This helps to separate the husk from the nibs as the beans expand upon heating. The ideally roasted cocoa bean should give an aromatic flavour without a raw or burnt taste. The roasted beans are cracked and winnowed to remove the cocoa nibs from the husk.  Cracking is done by applying pressure on the roasted beans which have tender outer shells and winnowing is done by passing the mixture through multiple screens and pipes using vibration and vacuum suction.  Cocoa husk seems to contain toxic heavy metals and they have to be removed completely leaving back pure cocoa nibs which are the most important raw material for chocolate manufacturing. Cocoa shells thus removed are often used in garden fertilizers.

    Cocoa nibs then undergo the process of thorough grinding and in the next level it is converted in to a liquid called cocoa liquor which is also called unsweetened chocolate or cocoa mass. Grinding time varies according to the requirement, ranging from 36 to 72 hours sometimes. Optimum particle size distribution is achieved through a thorough grinding process. It is from this liquor that the two major cocoa products like cocoa butter and cocoa powder are obtained. After pressing the liquor for producing cocoa butter, the byproduct obtained is crushed to make cocoa powder. Freshly pressed butter gives a special aroma for the final products made.

    It is during the process of refining that the other ingredients like sugar, milk powder and extra cocoa butter are introduced to the product. Now a days this is a highly machinated process where large number of products are made within a short span of time. Conching is an essential part of refining since the unwanted and volatile ingredients present in the mixture have to be thoroughly removed before the final products are made. The final recipe for a chocolate bar is decided by the price, taste factors and the brand specifications.

    The right consistency of the chocolate thus made finally is achieved through the process of tempering, i.e., alternate lowering and raising of temperatures. Tempering is done either manually or with the help of machines. It is done to leave the bar glossy, smooth and crispy and not to be crumbly. The final appearance and texture of the chocolate bar is decided by the crystals which are formed during the tempering process. The three main types of crystals formed are named alpha, beta and gamma according to the particle size. Alpha, the first type is small and sharp which gives a brittle texture and shiny appearance to the bar. Beta crystals are larger and rounder and give a creamy texture and dull appearance. The smallest of the three types is gamma crystals which could give smooth and glossy chocolate with a snappy texture.  The tempered molten chocolate is poured in to the specially designed moulds for making the chocolate bars in the desired shapes and sizes. The moulds are tapped on to a flat surface to remove the trapped air bubbles in it. The cooled and solidified bars thus obtained are sent for quality check before being packed in to protective foil or paper for locking them fresh. The labelling is done accordingly with the brand name, list of ingredients and the essential dates to be published as per stipulated legal requirements. Chocolate thus produced is stocked in specially designed rooms with regulated temperatures and delivered far and wide as per customer orders.

    Chocolates come in different tastes, flavour, colour and appearance. The Cocoa Percentage is a decisive factor in both the taste and appearance of chocolates. It is also suggestive of how much of the chocolate bar is made of cocoa bean and butter where the bean gives it a chocolaty taste and the butter leaves it creamier. Dark chocolates have a cocoa percentage between 60 and 100. Milk chocolates have 10-20%, white chocolates contain cocoa butter and not cocoa liquor but the cocoa percentage is roughly between 20 and 40. Highly nutritious and customized, vegan and keto chocolates are now made available from cocoa bean products.

    It is hard to believe that all those lovely mouth-watering varieties of delicious chocolate bars we come across are made from those beautiful pods ripening on the cocoa bark and branches in the tropical belt. Yes, from bean to bar they grow. 

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  2. Cocoa Fermentation process

    The farm fresh cocoa which is harvested from the green hills and valleys of Idukki district undergo so many vital processes before they become the essential ingredients of a variety of food products including the dreamy yummy delicious chocolate bars across the world. We are stringent followers of natural and advanced agricultural practices in the cultivation and processing of cocoa beans. Without proper fermentation there is no chocolate making possible from the beans. Selecting the right kind of beans, ensuring quality fermentation under suitable hygienic conditions and proper sun drying are crucial for obtaining the beans and all cocoa related products with the desired aroma and flavour especially for the chocolate manufacturers who depend on cocoa powder for their major raw material.

    Farm Spice procures the raw beans from the farmers in the district as well as our own farms producing organic beans from a large stretch of land. There is a meticulous process in place for harvesting the pods without damage upon ripening by the farmers. The pods thus obtained fresh from the farms are collected on a weekly basis through the collection centres functioning in each farm village. Quality checks and hygiene standards are always in place through the process so that we get the best beans for our customers. We are able to produce single origin cocoa beans since we cultivate or procure the fruits from the very same geographic location and that too the Forastero variety of it. These lovely pods go through fermentation and sun drying before proceeding for higher processes of cleaning, segregation and packing.

    The harvested cocoa bean pods are opened to obtain the wet beans with the pulp intact. The raw cocoa cannot be used directly for chocolate making. It has to be processed to release the flavour potential for making the different chocolate-based products. The flavour development continues through the process of sun drying of the beans and the dried beans achieve microbial stability as well. Fermentation of the bean is of utmost importance since it is a curing process which enhances flavour development and helps to retain the desired acidity levels of the beans thus obtained. Fermentation process actually happens in the pulp which surrounds the bean and the impact of the process is felt internally and externally on the cocoa beans. The microbial action induced in the fermentation process happens in the white juicy pulp that covers it and this process affects the flavour and aroma of the final products. Fermentation methods vary according to geographical specifications, climatic variations and the availability of resources. The sterile pulp collected after opening the pods undergo natural fermentation under a controlled and monitored environment to obtain the desired results without the use of any additional agents.

    We at Farm Spice are lovers of nature and natural processes. We prefer to follow natural methods of fermentation and sun drying in our own facilities. There are many methods of fermentation for cocoa beans. Heap, box tray and basket methods are used for fermentation in different regions according to the size of the farm output.

    We are equipped to ferment and dry almost five to ten tons of cocoa bean every week and we adopt the wooden box method which is natural and chemical free. The phenolic content of the raw cocoa beans renders it slightly bitter and astringent like. Carbohydrates and proteins in the bean are broken down by the action of the enzymes facilitating flavour development. The presence of a cocktail of microbes in the white pulp surrounding the beans triggers this process, creating a balanced environment through fermentation.  Large wooden boxes also called sweat boxes are used for fermentation of the cocoa beans. We always ferment the beans immediately once the harvest is over. This is done to avoid germination of the beans which happens immediately once the pods are separated from the parent tree. The germinated seeds go bitter, rendering it completely unfit for further processing and food production. Opening of the pod and collecting the pulp from within, storing them in wooden boxes for fermentation are done with extreme care following a hygiene protocol since minute infections and contaminations can damage the final quality profile of the beans. Fermentation is done with extreme care under balanced conditions to maintain the desired pH levels inside the sweat boxes.

    The stacked wooden boxes are built of selective wood conducive to the fermentation process. Holes are provided for proper aeration supporting the process and drainage of the fermented pulp. Occasional stirring, maintenance of the desired level of heat inside the box and consistency of fermentation are important as they trigger enzymatic action which is essential in bringing in the chocolate flavour. Chocolate manufacturers obviously are very particular about this consistency of fermentation and the desired taste maintained throughout as one cannot imagine the same brand of chocolate giving different tastes at different times.

    The fermented beans now have to be dried properly for reducing the moisture content. We follow the natural sundrying technique as it is the most effective and traditional technique followed by most of the farmers all over the world. As per the recommendations given by The International Cocoa Organization, the chocolaty flavour of the fermented beans is best retained by the process of slow drying. Sundrying enables the process of flavour development since it involves low temperatures and ample drying time for the beans. It takes approximately five to ten days for a complete moisture reduction through sun drying. Also the sundried beans are stored for a few weeks for obtaining better taste and optimum acidic and pH levels.

    We have been successfully doing these two fundamental processes of fermentation and sun drying in our facilities for more than thirty-five years, making us the producers and suppliers of best quality cocoa bean products online and offline. Our major customers are chocolate makers across India who demand single origin, aromatic and quality cocoa bean products for their highly taste specific industry. Consistency is the key in fermentation and we have been doing it so consistently!

    Fermentation is an art and we are the masters!!

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  3. Cocoa Grading standards

    International trade organizations suggest the producers of cocoa bean strictly adhere to certain standards by giving uniform fermentation levels to each bunch of the bean produced. This is supported by formulating a grading system with proper procedures and a grading catalogue. The grading system so emulated helps the customers understand the product specifications and purchase the required product from the producers. We at Farmspice are strictly in line with the international guidelines as we are one among the leading cocoa bean suppliers in the country with  a large number of customers who prefer to have  organic cocoa beans delivered online.

    The merchantable quality of cocoa available in the markets is decided by a number of factors like the quality of fermentation, dryness and the lack of all forms of adulteration.  Uniformity in size of the beans, absence of foreign particles including shells and broken beans, presence of slaty or mouldy beans, defective or fat beans and moisture content are also parameters which invariably decide the quality of the chosen bunch. Grading of cocoa bean is largely done on the basis of bean count per 100 grams of randomly chosen sample and the number of defective beans identified in the cut test performed. This is strictly in line with the internationally accepted grading process of the cocoa beans. Grading helps both the whole sale and retail cocoa bean customers.

    • Bean count is the number of beans per 100 grams of chosen sample.
    • Cut tests are performed to assess the quality of fermentation and bean health by cutting at least 10 beans from the selected bunch. The thus dissected halves are inspected for the desired quality parameters.

    We follow a three-level grading system with Premium, Grade I and Grade II beans. Production of Premium and Grade I involve extra sorting and cleaning and so the prices are higher than Grade II. Grade two is the regular bean made available after the initial processes of fermentation and sun drying after bean procurement. Prices vary according to the intensity and expenditure of the processes involved in the making of each grade. Customers are free to choose according to their budget and requirements.

    Premium: (Extra Sorted)

    The bean passes through extra sorting and cleaning and only 70% of the regular bean is selected which is obtained through the process of fermentation and sun drying. This grade is specially designed for retail customers who demand uniform sized beans with no wastage.

    • The bean count is less than 90 per 100 grams of cocoa bean.
    • Each bean is hand-picked ensuring its quality.
    • Slaty or mouldy bean not more than 3%
    • Defective or fat bean not more than 5%
    • Not fermented maximum 4%
    • Maximum permissible moisture 6 -7.5%
    • Flat, broken and small beans are selectively removed so that the percentage left over is never more than 1.
    • Uniform fermentation levels.
    •  The whole process is undertaken in our own facility.

    Grade-I: (Minimum sorted)

    Minimum sorting and cleaning are done to remove flat beans and dust particles. Includes 85% of the regular cocoa beans after sorting. This is ideal for wholesale customers as they get cleaned beans with the flat ones removed.

    • Bean count here is less than 100 per 100 grams.
    • Flat beans are removed with minimum sorting to improve the bean quality.
    • Uniform fermentation levels.
    • The price difference is about Rs 20/kg compared to the Premium grade beans.
    • This one is also fermented and sundried in our own facility.

    Grade-II (Regular Cocoa beans)

     If Premium and Grade I are higher standards, this is the regular bean obtained in the process. Our customers have happily admitted that our Grade II or regular beans are of much higher quality compared to other regular beans available in the market from other sellers around.

    • This is the regular bean we obtain after fermentation and sun drying.
    • This doesn’t involve further cleaning and sorting.
    •  Bean count here is less than 110 beans per 100 grams.
    • Contains flat and broken beans unlike the other two grades since it doesn’t involve second level sorting and cleaning.
    • It is also fermented and sundried in our own facility.
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  4. Idukki Cocoa

    The mighty misty Western Ghats while on its majestic voyage from the south of Tapti river to the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent takes a greener halt at the district of Idukki in the state of Kerala. Blessed with the highest peak of the ghats Anaimudi, and its evergreen forests home to varieties of plant and animal species, the district has achieved and maintained the prestigious title of being the largest producer and exporter of spices in Kerala. The green mountains and valleys are well known for over twelve varieties of spices including cardamom, pepper, garlic, ginger, nutmeg etc. Cocoa plants find the best habitat in these serene mountains and valleys with ample sunlight and rainfall. We FarmSpice Traders do procure the best quality raw cocoa beans from these plantations. The beans grown in these mountains and valleys are now known to the world for their outstanding quality and richness uniquely added by the high altitudes, rainfall and other blessings of nature.

    Cocoa (Theobroma Cacao) is one among the most important beverage crops best flourishing in the tropical regions of the world. In India cocoa production is largely concentrated in the southern states, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra and Tamilnadu as intercrop along with coconut, areca nut, oil palm and rubber. There are four different varieties of cocoa bean namely Forastero, Criollo, Trinitario, and Nacional. Criollo and Forastero varieties originated in the Amazon basin but Forastero being a fast grown and popular variety had reached Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South and West Africa and South East Asia. Forastero being a high yielding and fast grown variety, it remains to be the best choice for the cultivators and also the right variety for the chocolate manufacturers. Most of the Indian farmers grow the Forastero bean for it grows well in Indian climatic conditions. Kerala Agricultural University is said to have come up with seven different cloned varieties of the Forastero type and extensive research is still going on in this direction.

    The quality of the bean so cultivated is invariably related to the geography of the place. Chocolate makers who make use of cocoa bean for large scale productions prefer to use single origin bean for maintaining taste consistency. Thus the external factors like availability of sunshine, rainfall and soil specifications are crucial in determining the quality profile of this wonderful fruit. We at FarmSpice thus cultivate and procure those precious beans born in the rich and fertile soil of Idukki district which has all essential climatic requirements which produce cocoa beans of best quality and aroma. Kerala being the second largest cocoa producing state in India with much of its bulk coming from the hills of Idukki, these single origin, well fermented and sundried cocoa beans are bought by wholesale and retail customers all over the world for chocolate making, production of health and beauty products and much more.

    Of all the districts of Kerala, it is Idukki which has the right geographic location, climatic features, soil qualities and an agriculture loving and earth-oriented population which lives in perfect harmony with nature. With its undulating terrains, evergreen forests and fresh flowing rivers, Idukki is home for the best bean with rich aroma, smooth and chocolaty texture and high quality profile. We sell everything from raw cocoa beans to highly refined products like cocoa butter and powder, and the quality of cocoa butter obtained from Idukki hills stands above all beans from other regions in terms of its taste, texture and quality- a factor which has been consistently affirmed by our customers within India and abroad. Butter content of the beans thus produced  is relatively high making it the most preferred product for the chocolate manufacturers. We have an extensive stretch of farming area in the district with strict adherence to organic farming techniques and also, we help farmers across the district through yearlong procurement of their products there by strengthening the supply chain.  We have well equipped units for fermentation and sun drying of the cultivated and procured cocoa beans making them the best in the market ready to be delivered to different customers with different requirements.

    Cocoa beans grown here are best in quality, bold in size and with an attractive bean count thus making it ideal for customers who demand single origin cocoa beans in all seasons for their products especially chocolate making industries where taste consistency cannot be compromised at any cost. Even home-made chocolates made out of the local products from the Idukki farms are relished by the travellers and tourists who keep Idukki as one among their favorite destinations.  We tap this geographic potential of the district for our valuable customers since customer satisfaction and immense support from them have rendered us what we are today and we are completely equipped to have an end-to-end process, from cultivating or procuring the beans to delivering the products on time at the desired doorsteps. We have a well established and structured online platform for customers who need to buy raw cocoa beans, whole cocoa beans, single origin cocoa beans, Kerala cocoa beans, cocoa beans from Idukki so on and so forth.

    With the flourishing of online marketing and sale triggered by the Pandemic and technological enhancements, people all over the world are now able to relish the aromatic beans from the hills in their desired products especially confections and chocolates, from the bean to the bar. Cocoa beans  grown in these lands are gradually becoming the most sought after product in the international markets especially among chocolate lovers and manufacturers. They carry the secrets and signature of the mighty hills of the Western Ghats. We grow and pack that purity, serenity and quality of the hills of Idukki.

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