Harvesting Cacao | How to Make Everything: Chocolate Bar

Harvesting Cacao | How to Make Everything: Chocolate Bar


How to make everything from scratch: Chocolate bar. My first step for making my chocolate bar entirely from scratch will be harvesting the fruit of a cacao tree Since cacao is not native to Minnesota, i’m gonna have to head south Despite being the birth place of chocolate, Mexico today produces less than 2% of the world supply of cacao Instead, nearly 70% of cacao comes from west Africa With constant reports of the use of child labor and forced slavery in this industry There’s a very real possibility that the chocolate you eat everyday, is made by the hands of child slaves. With this dark side to the production of chocolate, i want to find a more social responsible source for my chocolate The Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico, is believed to be one of the earliest locations that cacao was grown as a crop As far back as 4000 years ago. Despite many challenges, this region still produces cacao just as their ancestors did millenniums ago There are 3 main varieties of cacao plants. Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario. 80 to 90% of chocolate is produced from the Forastero variety because of its higher yields and stronger disease resistence However, the Criollo is a much rarer variety, known for being a delicacy In Soconusco, i met up with Jorge, president of CASFA. An organisation of farmers who are agreeing on sustainable methods for producing caco that both respects the
environment and the local farmers This region of Soconusco is known for its production of Criollo cacao After arriving in the city of Tapachula, Jorge took us out to the jungles where they grow their cacao.
Instead of a plantation farm with fields of cacao trees their trees are integrated into the natural ecosystem of the jungle This method is more environmentally stable and prevents deforestation and monocultures but increases the spread of potential cacao diseases After a shot track into the jungle in the sweltering ninety degree heat of this humid December day I assisted Jorge by planting a seedling
that they had matured in the nursery He had me count off 4 paces from the next closest cacao tree to ensure that the wouldn’t compete with each other Then they had me clear the brush with a machete. Then dig a hole I then filled the hole with organic compost to give the nutrients it would need; then we planted the
sapling Once filled in, foliage was added around it to help protect it So now that’s planted it’ll take about 4 years for it to mature and start harvest it so…
I just have to come back in four years But it takes more than time for a cacao tree to start producing fruit, so Jorge took me to a 1 year old tree to show me what needs to be done to care for a cacao tree before it can be harvested They had me go through and trim any excess sprout that the tree had grown Forcing it to instead put its energy toward growing the cacao fruit And to grow more horizontally instead of vertically An extra challenge to gardening in the jungle was some of the not so friendly insects Next we leveled out the land around the tree to help protect the roots And added some compost to help it grow Knowing very little spanish, following their directions was a bit difficoult Some things were lost in translation Lastly, the cacao tree requires a balance of shade and sun So we had to trim some of the surrounding trees so to get just the right amount My machete skills weren’t exactly the best… Now in three years this tree wil produce fruit But to find mature trees I could harvest I went to another member of CASVA. Jose He showed me around his beautiful home. And right out is backdoor is a jungle full of exotic fruits and vegetables In a method that is
compatible with existing ecosystem, Jose grows plantains, mangos, limes and numerous other tropical crops including cacao I found it incredibly captivating to handle these strange, alien looking pods that just grew out of a tree I’ve never really made the connection that the delicious chocolate we eat actually comes from a tree’s fruit Shall I go behind it? There we go Doesn’t smell like chocolate Sure Hmm, smells like a fruit Oh, yeah It’s like a bitter chocolate but also tastes like a fruit Trying the raw cacao fruit, really blew away my expectations While having a slight bitter chocolate taste at the center, it mostly tasted like a regular fruit Not at all what I expected So, how many pods grow on a tree? So from an entire tree like this how much chocolate would you produce from that? So does the outside of the pods serve any purpose? So it can be used in a lot of different foods, what’s some of your favourite things to use up with? Inside, Jose showed me some of the other products, including the raw nips which had a nice chocolate flavour while not being overly sweet and resembling the texture of flax or oats The show me the jelly that can be made from the outside the pod It’s made by boiling the rind for a few hours and the result is a very sweet, kind of pineapple flavoured jam that’s eaten on bread It’s actually good, very sweet, doesn’t really tastes like chocolate. Thanks to the help from Jose and everyone from CASVA, I now have my raw cacao beans However in the current state, they don’t really taste much like chocolate Prepairing is a crucial fermenting and roasting steps that give it the real chocolate flavour, so that’s what I’ll need to learn how to do next

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