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What can be learned in a cacao harvest?
Fellow Scientists,
    This subject line is a good excuse to inform you of my coming Cacao Harvest Tour (aka, in Nicaragua, this coming Oct 15- Dec 1.

    My interest is practical science, and one of the simplest things we will discover is at what general temperatures does cacao ferment.
    Another will be to ferment the same beans for eight days (the standard in Nicaragua for Ritter Sport, seems overfermented but very tasty) vs a four day ferment. Then making it into chocolate, we can taste the difference.

    And are these white and pink cacaso actually criollos? According to Maricel Presilla (The New Taste of Chocolate), the USDA does simple tests on cacao leaves to determine whether criollo or other.....   I will ask her if they do approximate percentages.

    What would you like to learn in a cacao harvest?

    A few associated notes, maybe more historical than anything.
    I've been wondering when and how Mexico (and Nicaragua) lost the old tradition of fermenting. According to Dr Michael Coe (True History of Chocolate), the old Mayans "would have stored fermented, dried and roasted beans." This makes some sense in that the roasting may have rendered it immune to the 'polillo' a problematic weevil/worm for storage.
    Responding to my information that todays cacao in Mexico is (almost) universally NOT fermented, then roasted to near-burning (up to 300F for half an hour or more) to make it barely edible, he commented, "Modern Mexican chocolate is universally awful, and now I know why -- no fermentation. This has to be a post-colonial innovation, since the Spanish court -- the ultimate destination for so much Mexican (and Venezuelan) chocolate -- would never have tolerated the unfermented product, nor would the Aztec court. I've made the mistake of buying packets of powdered chocolate along the road in Chiapas -- these were marked 'Soconusco' -- and they were terrible, obviously processed the way you describe.."

    J Sandy Hepler

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Replies to This Discussion

I'm a bit confused with this posting. The title relates to HARVEST and the paragraph body relates to POST HARVEST. There are significant segments to each step in the process that impact the final product. ie
1 state of fruit maturation when cut
2 period of time between cutting and opening pods
3 cleanliness of beans during cutting (exclude diseased, exclude non-matre beans, exclude foreign material)
4 period of delay between opening pods and installation into ferment bins
5 quantity of cacau pod fluids retained
6 climatic conditions when pods are opened and beans transported

1 volume of fermentation boxes
2 drain rate of pod fluids ( box design function)
3 type of materials used to construct boxes
4 height, width and depth of ferment pile
5 period of fermentation prior to 1st "turning" the pile
6 subsequent pile turning intervals
7 covering of pile during fermentation period
8 genetic type of beans being fermented
9 climatic conditions during fermentation
10 pre fermentation treatment (washing? pressing? enzyme addatives? mechanical liquid reduction?)
11 sun or mechanical drying
12 direct sunlight or UV protected
13 depth of drying pile
14 frequency of bean manipulation during drying
15 maximum drying temperatures
16 desired % of humidity desired
17 polished or natural bean presentation
18 post drying cleaning and grading
19 method of packaging for storage? shipment?

To evaluate the processes you will need several instruments and references which enable you to make objective tests of fermentation temperatres, bean color, humidity % and net weight loss during process.

I look forward to your experimental results. It will be very informative to see detailed notes and results of the work intended.

best regards
Jim Lucas

There are other parts to the process which are included in Quality management but do not have direct impact on the actual fermentation HARVEST and POST HARVEST PROCESS
You had quite detailed and informative writing. May be you can write another post with more such good information about cacao processing etc.


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