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!!