From Pod to Product:
Learn about one of our favorite commodities on World Chocolate Day!
Written by Plant With Purpose on July 7, 2016 in General
Today we celebrate World Chocolate Day.
Have you ever wondered where that magical square of sweetness comes from? While some chocolate might still flow from Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, most is crafted through a fascinating process only known to cacao farmers.
Plant With Purpose partnering farmers in the Dominican Republic have mastered this technique. Large tropical cacao trees look a little like they came from the imagination of Dr. Seuss as red, yellow, and green pods shoot out from not only the branches but also the trunks of these shade trees. If you think the chocolate river is magical, follow along to learn how tiny seedlings turn into one of the world’s greatest commodities and our favorite treat.
Planting trees is a community effort in the Dominican Republic. Tree nurseries in Maizal allow seedlings to grow to a point where the likelihood of survival increases.
Cacao pods cling to the trunk and branches of mature trees.
To harvest cacao pods, a blade is attached to the end of a long pole, often a piece of bamboo. The blade is placed where the stem meets the trunk. The combination of one strong nudge and the pull of gravity easily sends the pods to the ground.
Harvested pods pile up for the next step in the process.
Pods are cracked open with a swift hack of a machete.
Cacao beans are covered in a sweet white pulp. The beans are scraped into buckets and transported to the community cacao co-op.
The beans are then left in vats and go through a 72-hour fermentation process to get rid of the white pulp.
Beans spend five days in the solar drier and are then bagged. A truck from national Dominican company comes to Maizal every eight days to pick up 76 sacks. The cocoa is ultimately shipped to Europe and other countries for processing.
The market price for dried verses raw, organic verses non-organic is posted for all to see the going rate.
Some members from the local savings-and-loan group started a small business processing the cacao nibs into a desirable product. Nibs are roasted and shelled.
This local business took a loan to purchase a grinder. The beans are processed into containers to be sold at local markets.
So while you’re picking out the perfect box of chocolate for a loved one, think about including a cacao tree. Plant With Purpose’s Gifts of Hope allows you to buy gifts that give back. It costs one dollar to plant one tree so consider spreading some love that will anchor rural communities for generations to come.
This post originally appeared as, “Give More Than Just the Box of Chocolates This Valentine’s Day” on February 11.