Harvesting and fermentation of cocoa

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Cocoa tree

The formation and development of the pods take on average 5 to 6 months when the green pods turn yellow and red pods turn orange. Harvesting should be made with a sharp knife making sure not to damage the flower cushion which will produce the flowers and fruits of subsequent harvests. Harvesting should be carried out at regular intervals of ten to fifteen days and should never exceed three weeks. The pods are usually opened with wooden mallets. To ensure good quality beans, the cocoa beans should be well and properly fermented for approximately 6 days and drying starts on the 7th day.

Methods of fermentation

Sweat box fermentation

Three boxes, each 1m deep are arranged one above the other on concrete steps so that each box has its front bottom edge level with and slightly overlapping the top back edge of the box below. Put fresh cocoa seeds into the top box (i.e Box 1 and cover with banana leaves to retain heat. After 48 hours turn the seeds into the middlebox (Box2) by removing the sliding 1 section and shoveling the seeds forward in such a way that those seeds that were on top in the first box will now be at the bottom in the second box. After another 48 hours shovel the seeds into the third box, and 2 or 3 days later remove the seeds for drying.

fermentation box

Tray fermentation

Wooden trays 60cm* 60cm*7.5cm with slated bottoms, are filled with wet cocoa seeds and stacked one upon the other to a convenient height for handling. Each stack should stand upon a perforated wooden base raised 10 cm above the ground level to facilitate the drainage of sweating. The top tray is covered with banana leaves and the whole stack with a sacking cover. Full fermentation is achieved without mixing after 4 days and the seeds are ready for drying.

Basket fermentation

Basket woven from vegetable fibres are lined inside with banana leaves and when the cocoa seeds are placed inside; the protruding ends of the leaves are folded over and secured. The baskets are placed on sticks to provide good drainage. Turning and mixing take place on the third and fifth days and the seeds are removed for drying on the seventh day.

locally made basket

Heap fermentation

Banana leaves are placed on a raised platform of sticks in a radial fashion, the bases overlapping. Fresh cocoa seeds are then heaped in the center and the leaves folded over, entirely enclosing the seeds. The heap is then weighted with stones to secure the cover. Turning and mixing take place on the third and fifth days and on the seventh day the fermented seeds are removed for drying.

heap fermentation

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