9. Colonial systems
Chocolate production is one of the most productive and profitable “fruits” of the colonial system, still intact and dominant.
How is a colonial system born? Through selective taxation.
Importation in Europe of whole cocoa beans, without any processing was easy and free from custom duties. For semi-finished products such as paste, grain, powder and cocoa butter the story was different.
Why this simple system?
Because in this way the producing countries, unable to create a processing industry, have been forced to sell their raw material at a miserable price.
To the few multinationals protagonists of the market; processing and producing companies that make the chocolate, along with its semi- finished raw materials, available to Western markets.
Apart from political, social and economic reasons, what has this system involved?
A long process, an Odyssey, before the alchemist chocolatiers could receive the precious cocoa beans and transform them in the delights that we love so much: chocolate in all his forms!!
10. The long journey of the cocoa beans
The pod that contains the cocoa beans is called a Cabossa, in each Cabossa pod there are normally 30-50 cocoa beans. Each tree produces 20-50 Cabossa pods.
The cocoa tree is a wonderful tree that grows in the sub tropical region of the planet and it does not like to be on his own: it is always surrounded by bigger trees like banana, coconut, or other taller trees.
The Cabossa, with its elongated shape, is normally as big as a small melon and once opened it contains 30-50 cocoa beans wrapped in white tissue.
Fresh cocoa beans have a strong astringent taste and they are hardly digestible.
To create the magic alchemic process to produce the delicious chocolate that we all love, the cocoa beans are removed from the Cabossa and allowed to ferment in the sun, with the tissue they are wrapped in, for about 3 days. Nowadays chocolate industries crush the cocoa beans all together and let them ferment for 5/6 days.
This process used to happen in wooden cases. Nowadays, advanced processors use cedar chests, that protect the cocoa beans from moulds.
The traditional fermentation of the criollo cocoa bean lasts roughly 3 days in order to activate and develop the aromatic, nutritional and taste principles of what will then be our chocolate.
At the end of the fermentation process, cocoa beans are washed and dried in the sun. Sun drying could last up to 12 days, doing so protects the cocoa beans from moulds.
Sun-drying is a very expensive and delicate process, that is why big manufacturers have developed an artificial alternative to sun drying. However, the majority of the cocoa production comes from poor, small farmers that are still sun drying the cocoa beans along the roads, behind their gardens, on the roofs of their houses and wherever they can find a place to spread the precious seeds.
At the end of the process, the cocoa beans are packed in jute sacks and delivered to assembly centers.
This is where the farmers’ mission ends.
It is now up to all the other protagonists to follow the numerous steps that will transform the precious cocoa beans in our beloved chocolate.