Frequently Asked Questions features a list of questions and answers that will facilitate understanding of the cocoa world.
The various topics are organised alphabetically in various categories and have been answered by cocoa experts.
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Propagation of cocoa trees
Cocoa is raised from seed. Seeds will germinate and produce good plants when taken from pods not more than 15 days underripe.
Vegetative propagation can also be used to create clones. Vegetative propagation can be by cuttings, budding or marcotting.
Cuttings – Tree cuttings are taken with between two and five leaves and one or two buds. The leaves are cut in half and the cutting placed in a pot under polythene until roots begin to grow.
Budding – A bud is cut from a tree and placed under a flap of bark on another tree. The budding patch is then bound with raffia, waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent moisture loss. When the bud is growing the old tree above it is cut down.
Marcotting – A strip of bark is removed from a branch and the area covered in sawdust and a polythene sheet. The area will produce roots and the branch can then be chopped off and planted.
In vitro propagation is not generally used for cocoa, but research is taking place on the subject to find easier in vitro methods of producing clones. Adu-Ampomah et al managed to produce somatic embryoids from cotyledons and developed a method for their development into plantlets. Somatic embryogenesis is a process by which somatic cells undergo bipolar development to give rise to genetically identical whole plants by means of the development of adventitious embryos that occur without the fusion of gametes. The development of somatic embryogenesis systems of cocoa trees has opened a new avenue for vegetative propagation. Scientists in a Penn State research programme funded by the American Cocoa Research Institute have been researching the method and a field test comparing in vitro cloned cocoa plants with seed grown and grafted plants is to take place at the Union Vale Estate on the island of Saint Lucia in the West Indies. The ForBio Group of companies is researching the propagation of cocoa plants using tissue culture and/or robotic assisted micropropagation technology.
Willson K.C. Coffee, Cocoa and Tea. Crop Production Science in Horticulture 8. CABI Publishing, 1999
Guiltinan, M.J., Li, Z., Traore, A., Maximova, S., Pishak, S. High efficiency somatic embryogenesis and genetic transformation of cacao. INGENIC News letter, (3): 7-8, October 1997
Penn State uses cloning technology to improve cocoa plants. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, 3pp, 4 May 1998
The application of biotechnology to cacao. A presentation to the ICCO by ForBio Tropical Plants. ForBio Tropical Plants, 5pp, September 1998
Adu-Ampomah Y., Novak F., Afza R. and van Durren M. Embroid and plant production from cultured cocoa explants. Proceedings of the Tenth International Cocoa Research Conference, Santo Domingo, May 1987, pp129-136
Summary of the process of transforming beans into chocolate and cocoa products
Step 1. The cocoa beans are cleaned to remove all extraneous material.
Step 2. To bring out the chocolate flavour and colour, the beans are roasted. The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product required from the process.
Step 3. A winnowing machine is used to remove the shells from the beans to leave just the cocoa nibs.
Step 4. The cocoa nibs undergo alkalisation, usually with potassium carbonate, to develop the flavour and colour.
Step 5. The nibs are then milled to create cocoa liquor (cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter). The temperature and degree of milling varies according to the type of nib used and the product required.
Step 6. Manufacturers generally use more than one type of bean in their products and therefore the different beans have to be blended together to the required formula.
Step 7. The cocoa liquor is pressed to extract the cocoa butter leaving a solid mass called cocoa presscake. The amount of butter extracted from the liquor is controlled by the manufacturer to produce presscake with different proportions of fat.
Step 8. The processing now takes two different directions. The cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. The cocoa presscake is broken into small pieces to form kibbled presscake which is then pulverised to form cocoa powder.
Step 9. Cocoa liquor is used to form chocolate through the addition of cocoa butter. Other ingredients such as sugar, milk, emulsifying agents and cocoa butter equivalents are also added and mixed. The proportions of the different ingredients depends on the type of chocolate being made.
Step 10. The mixture then undergoes a refining process by travelling through a series of rollers until a smooth paste is formed. Refining improves the texture of the chocolate.
Step 11. The next process, conching, further develops flavour and texture. Conching is a kneading or smoothing process. The speed, duration and temperature of the kneading affect the flavour. An alternative to conching is an emulsifying process using a machine that works like an egg beater.
Step 12. The mixture is then tempered or passed through a heating, cooling and reheating process. This prevents discolouration and fat bloom in the product by preventing certain crystalline formations of cocoa butter developing.
Step 13. The mixture is then put into moulds or used for enrobing fillings and cooled in a cooling chamber.
Step 14. The chocolate is then packaged for distribution to retail outlets.
The story of chocolate. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the USA
Dand, R. The International Cocoa Trade. 3rd edition, Woodhead Publishing, 2011
Minifie, B.W. Chocolate, cocoa and confectionery science and technology. 3rd edition. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989
What is cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove three quarters of its cocoa butter. The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed.
Dutch-processed pr Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. It has a reddish-brown colour, mild flavour, and and is easy to dissolve in liquids. Standard cocoa powder has a fat content of approximately 10-12 percent.
What is the origin of the cocoa tree?
Cocoa beans, from which cocoa products are derived, come from the cocoa tree, which is the species Theobroma cacao.
The genus Theobroma, from which the cocoa tree species comes, originated millions of years ago in South America, to the east of the Andes. However, despite our knowing the origin of the genus Theobroma, the birthplace of Theobroma cacao is not so certain and there is no consensus on where cocoa originated. There are scientific claims for the origin of the cocoa tree in several areas in Central and South America. These areas are:
The upper Amazon region
This region’s rich tropical rainforests are a primary centre of diversity and it is possible the cocoa tree grew here 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.
The upper Orinoco region of north east Colombia and north west Venezuela
Evidence of a large cacao gene pool in the upper Orinoco suggests that this could be where wild cacao originated. The transfer of cacao to Mexico would also be short and easy from here.
The Andean foothills of north west Colombia
It is postulated that cacao originated in the Andean foothills because of the large number of species found there and the comparative ease of dispersal to Mexico.
Central America, from southern Mexico to Guatemala
Other studies give the Lacandon forest of Chiapas in Mexico and the Usumacinta river area on the borders of Mexico and Guatemala as the source of cacao.
Whether by natural dispersal or carriage, cacao spread through northern South America and central America, eventually splitting into two sub-species, criollo cacao in Central America and forastero cacao in South America.
Young, A.M., The chocolate tree. A natural history of cacao. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.
ICCO Cocoa Newsletter (9): 13-14, July 1995
ICCO Cocoa Newsletter (10): 6-7, February 1996
Products that can be made from cocoa
Many different sorts of products can be derived from cocoa.
The husks of cocoa pods and the pulp, or sweatings, surrounding the beans and the cocoa bean shells can be used. Some examples of these uses are:
Animal feed from cocoa husk – As pelletised dry 100% cocoa pod husk, it can be used as an animal feed. The animal feed is produced by first slicing the fresh cocoa husks into small flakes and then partially drying the flakes, followed by mincing and pelleting and drying of the pellets.
Production of soft drinks and alcohol – In the preparation of soft drinks, fresh cocoa pulp juice (sweatings) is collected, sterilised and bottled. For the production of alcoholic drinks, such as brandy, the fresh juice is boiled, cooled and fermented with yeast. After 4 days of fermentation the alcohol is distilled.
Potash from cocoa pod husk – Cocoa pod husk ash is used mainly for soft soap manufacture. It may also be used as fertiliser for cocoa, vegetables, and food crops. To prepare the ash, fresh husks are spread out in the open to dry for one to two weeks. The dried husks are then incinerated in an ashing kiln.
Jam and marmalade – Pectin for jam and marmalade is extracted from the sweatings by precipitation with alcohol, followed by distillation and recycling of the alcohol in further extractions.
Mulch – Cocoa bean shells can be used an organic mulch and soil conditioner for the garden.
Once the beans have been fermented and dried, they can be processed to produce a variety of products. These products include:
Cocoa butter – Cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. It is also widely used in cosmetic products such as moisturising creams and soaps.
Cocoa powder – Cocoa powder can be used as an ingredient in almost any foodstuff. For example, it is used in chocolate flavoured drinks, chocolate flavoured desserts such as ice cream and mousse, chocolate spreads and sauces, and cakes and biscuits.
Cocoa liquor – Cocoa liquor is used, with other ingredients, to produce chocolate. Chocolate is used as a product on its own or combined with other ingredients to form confectionery products.
Adomako, D., Non-traditional uses of cocoa in Ghana. Eighth meeting of the Advisory Group on the World Cocoa Economy, 26th-30th June 1995, Yaounde, Cameroon, pp.79-85. ICCO, 1995
The cocoa manual. A guide to de Zaan’s cocoa products. Cacao de Zaan, 1993
Cocoa shell – Garden mulch and soil conditioner. Brochure from Sunshine of Africa (UK) Ltd, 2pp, 1998
Fine or Flavour Cocoa
Cocoa beans are the seeds inside the cocoa pods. In pre-Columbian civilisations, cacao beans constituted both a ritual beverage and a major currency system. The Aztec empire usually received a yearly tribute of 980 loads (xiquipil in Nahuatl) of cacao, in addition to other goods. Each load represented exactly 8000 beans. The buying power of quality beans was such that 80-100 beans could buy a new cloth mantle. In some areas, such as Yucatán, cacao beans were still used in place of small coins as late as the 1840s.
The world cocoa market distinguishes between two broad categories of cocoa beans: “fine or flavour” cocoa beans, and “bulk” or “ordinary” cocoa beans. As a generalisation, fine or flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa tree varieties, while bulk cocoa beans come from Forastero trees. There are, however, known exceptions to this generalisation. Nacional trees in Ecuador, considered to be Forastero-type trees, produce fine or flavour cocoa. On the other hand, Cameroon cocoa beans, produced by Trinitario-type trees and whose cocoa powder has a distinct and sought-after red colour, are classified as bulk cocoa.
Annex “C” of the International Cocoa Agreement provides the list of producing countries that are recognised as exporting either exclusively or partially fine or flavour cocoa. This annex was updated in May 2008, following a recommendation by the Panel of Fine or Flavour cocoa, which met in January 2008. The annex was updated again in March 2011, following a recommendation of the Panel after its September 2010 meeting.
List of books on the history of cocoa and chocolate
The following are useful references giving information on the history of cocoa and chocolate:
Bernal Diaz del Castillo. True history of conquest of new Spain. 1582
Stubbe, H. Indian nectar (discourse concerning chocolate). 1682
Gage, T., True survey of West Indies. 1648
Katherine Khodorowsky and Hervé Robert. Chocolate from A-Z. Flammarion/Barry Callebaut, 1997
Cox, C., Chocolate unwrapped: The politics of pleasure. The Women’s Environmental Network, 1993
Knapp, A.W. (an employee of Cadbury), Cocoa and chocolate.
Cook, L.R., Meursing, E.H., Chocolate production and use. Revised edition. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982
Lees, R., History of sweet and chocolate manufacture. Specialised Publications Ltd, 1988
Morton, M., Morton, F., Chocolate: an illustrated history. Crown Publishers Inc, 1986
Young, A.M., The chocolate tree. A natural history of cacao. Smithsonian Institute, 1994
Coe, S.D., Coe, M.D., The true history of chocolate. Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1996
Clarence-Smith, W.G., Cocoa and chocolate, 1765-1914. Routledge, 2000
Opie, R., Sweet Memories. Pavilion Books, 1999
Jayne-Stanes, S., Chocolate, the definitive guide. Grub Street, 1999
Quotes/thoughts from the time when Europeans first came across cocoa/chocolate
Benzoni said in 1575 “chocolate seemed more a drink for pigs”, but was the most expensive merchandise according to the Indians.
In 1624 Johan Franciscus Rauch of Vienna condemned chocolate as an inflamer of passions and urged monks not to drink it.
Samuel Pepys wrote in 1660 of Charles II returning to England from exile with a quantity of chocolate.
In 1648 Thomas Gage tried to intervene with the Bishop of Chiapas over the congregation drinking chocolate during services. The Bishop was unmoved, preferring the honour of God to his own life, and the congregation went to another church where the friars were not bothered by cocoa drinking. The friars received the stipend that formerly went to the Bishop, and the Bishop threatened excommunication. Poisoned chocolate was sent to the Bishop and Gage fled Chiapas.
In 1662 Dr Bachot described chocolate as “so noble a confection, more than nectar & ambrosia, the true food of the gods”.
In 1662 Henry Stubbe inveighed against Presbyterians who condemn chocolate as it is no more venereal than your constant diet.
In 1673 an English Member of Parliament requested the prohibition of Spanish chocolate, brandy, rum, tea and coffee as sales of home grown beer and ale were suffering. The request was refused but it sowed the seeds for the taxation of cocoa in the 18th century.
In 1706 Dr Daniel Duncan’s book, entitled Wholesome advice against the abuse of hot liquors, particularly coffee, chocolate, tea, brandy and strong waters, stated that Satan makes us believe that …. Chocolate will do us no hurt… weakens the spirit, causes disorders of breath… & rare for women of Spain, Portugal and Italy to have more than two children.
In 1724 Dr Richard Brookes claimed that chocolate prolonged life and cured ringworm and ulcers. He also suggested cocoa butter for skin treatment, piles and gout.
In 1796 Lavedan described chocolate as “divine, celestial drink… panacea & universal medicine”.
In 1799 the future US president John Adams wrote from Spain “chocolate superior to any other”.
True history of chocolate, Coe, S.D. & Coe, M.D. Thames and Hudson, 1996
Chocolate production and use, Cook, L.R. & Meursing, E.H. Harcourt Brace Johanovich, 1982
True survey of West Indies Gage, T., 1648
History of sweet and chocolate manufacture, Lees, R. Specialised Publications Ltd, 1988
Chocolate: an illustrated history, Morton, M. & Morton, F. Crown Publishers, 1986
True history of conquest of new Spain, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, 1582
Chocolate use in early Aztec cultures
During the time of the Aztecs, cocoa was mainly used as a beverage. Wines and drinks were made from white pulp around the seeds of the cocoa pod. The beans themselves were used to make hot or cold chocolate drinks. Both the Maya and the Aztec secular drinks used roasted cocoa beans, a foaming agent (sugir), toasted corn and water. Vanilla and/or chilli were also used as an ingredient in the drinks. Cocoa beans were also used as a currency and as a tribute (tax) from peoples ruled by Aztecs. The oily layer floating in the chocolate drink (cocoa butter) was used to protect the skin against the sun. For the Aztecs cocoa had a religious significance. Cocoa was believed to be of divine origin: the cocoa tree was a bridge between earth and heaven. Human sacrifices to propitiate God or sun were first sanctified by giving him chocolate. Cocoa beans were given to priest’s assistants at children’s coming of age ceremonies. During marriage ceremonies, the couple drank a symbolic cup of chocolate and exchanged cocoa beans. Aztecs believed that drinking chocolate gave mortals some of Quetzalcoatl’s (God of learning and of the wind) wisdom.
Cox, C. Chocolate unwrapped. Women’s Environmental Network, 1993
Coe, S. & Coe, M. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 1996
Khodorowsky, K. & Robert, H. Chocolate from A-Z. Flammarion, 1997
Morton, M. & Morton, F. Chocolate. An illustrated history. Crown, 1986
Young, A.M. The chocolate tree. Smithsonian Institute Press, 1994
Lees, R. A history of sweet and chocolate manufacture. Specialised Publications, 1988
Daily prices of cocoa beans on the futures markets
Each day the ICCO daily price for cocoa beans is placed on this website.
Under the terms of the 2001 International Cocoa Agreement, the ICCO monitors the evolution of the cocoa market and publishes a daily price for cocoa beans. The price is expressed in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) per tonne. The ICCO daily price for cocoa beans is calculated using the average of the quotations for cocoa beans of the nearest three active future trading months on the London terminal market at ICE Futures Europe and on the New York terminal market ICE US at the time of the close of the London market.
ICE Futures Europe includes information on the price of cocoa on its own website:https://globalderivatives.nyx.com/contract/content/29105/contract-specification
ICE also has information available on its website at https://www.theice.com/productguide/ProductDetails.shtml?specId=7
Cocoa bean prices can also be obtained by subscribing to news services such as:
Dow Jones at http://www.djindexes.com/commodity/
Thomson Reuters http://uk.reuters.com/business/commodities/softs#cocoa
What percentage of the cocoa price is paid to farmers in different countries?
Producer prices in US dollars expressed as a percentage of the ICCO daily price in selected countries
|Average ICCO Daily Price (US$/tonne)||$1089||$1778|
Trends in global supply and demand for cocoa. International Cocoa Organization, (EX/116/7)
What are the effects of intensive commercial production of cocoa on the environment?
An estimated 70% of world cocoa production is grown by smallholders, largely in low input, low intensity agricultural systems. Cocoa grows best in humid tropical conditions and so it is grown in the tropical rainforest zones of the world.
Although cocoa leaves the smallest mark of all the tropical cash crops, as it requires some shade and forest cover and has few inputs, widespread clearing of the forests for intensive cocoa production on large plantations can result in destruction of ecosystems which are slow to regenerate. Intensive large scale cocoa production can also result in reductions in biodiversity and soil fertility, soil erosion, stream sedimentation and health and environmental problems associated with agrochemical application and run-off. But, as mentioned above, most of the world’s cocoa production is on small holders plots which are more environmentally friendly.
Cocoa can be grown with consideration for the environment. Part of this process involves educating the farmers and promoting sustainable development.
With low world prices farmers often cannot afford chemical inputs and a great deal of cocoa is produced in a more or less organic fashion.
Some farms are also established in thinned forest. This retains some of the biodiversity and soil fertility, reduces soil erosion and requires fewer agrochemical inputs. However, establishing a farm on thinned forest is more labour intensive than through forest clearance.
In Ecuador many of the cocoa growing areas show great biodiversity. They are often organically farmed due to the expense of pesticides etc and farmers grow a variety of agricultural products as a form of risk management in order to deal with the effects of market fluctuations, floods, droughts, diseases, etc.
In Brazil in 1994 a new genus and species of bird (Acrobatornis fonsecai) was found on a Bahia cocoa farm which mimicked the Atlantic coast ecosystem extremely well.
The Rainforest Alliance and Cloud Nine Chocolates have produced a cocoa certification guide for an Eco-OK programme, and, in an effort to encourage and promote the sustainable management of the crop, they have begun certifying farms in western Ecuador.
Laird, S.A., Obialor, C., Skinner, E.A., An introductory handbook to cocoa certification. A feasibility study and regional profile of West Africa. Rainforest Alliance, 1996
Berg, K., Ecuadorian cocoa. Ecologically sound. Coffee & Cocoa International, 24 (5): 41-42, September/October 1997
How much time does it take for a cocoa tree to become productive?
The land needs to be cleared and prepared before planting cocoa seedlings and then cocoa trees take 3-5 years to yield a crop, with hybrid varieties providing crops earlier. But cocoa trees should be productive for about 25 years.
The age at which a tree is first harvested does not influence production during the life of the tree. Many other factors such as maintenance, variety of cocoa tree, weather etc. have more effect on production during the life of the tree than the time of first harvest.
Wood, G.A.R. and Lass, R.A., Cocoa. Longman, 4th edition, 1985
Mossu, G. Cocoa. CTA/Macmillan Press, 1992
Dand, R., The International Cocoa Trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Is it advisable to grow banana or other crops in conjunction with the cocoa for shade?
Yes, it is advisable to provide shade trees for growing cocoa trees.
The cocoa tree will make optimum use of any light available and has been traditionally grown under shade. Its natural environment is the Amazonian forest, which provides natural shade trees. Shading is indispensable in a cocoa tree’s early years to ensure the right form of growth.
The lack of shade trees can result in cocoa trees being more susceptible to attacks from sap sucking insects or capsids (also known as mirids).
Cocoa trees grown under thin forest cover usually require less pruning than cocoa trees grown without shade.
Bananas can provide shade for young trees, though this shade does not usually continue into maturity due to the short life span of the banana. Growing bananas also provides the farmer with another cash crop. Another tree often used for intercropping is coconut.
Shade can also be provided by thinning the forest or by planting trees, such as Leucaena leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium, to provide permanent shade. Some shade trees are leguminous and therefore return nitrogen to the soil.
Wood, G.A.R. and Lass, R.A., Cocoa. Longman, 4th edition, 1985
Mossu, G. Cocoa. CTA/Macmillan Press, 1992
Dand, R., The International Cocoa Trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Phosphorus requirement for growing cocoa
Phosphorus is vital for the growth processes of cocoa trees but only a small quantity is required. In most soils, incorporation of phosphate in planting holes gives a significant improvement in early growth.
One reference suggests that cocoa growing soils must have certain anionic and cationic balances, including:
‘The optimum total nitrogen/total phosphorus ratio should be close to 1.5, with the assimilable phosphorus content being at least equal to 180ppm of P or 0,229 per thousand of P2O5.’
Another reference estimates the phosphorus requirements of cocoa plants (based on 1,075 trees per hectare) as follows:
[TABLE NEEDS ADDING]
Stage of plant development Range of age of plants (months) Average P requirement in kg per hectare
Seedling 5-12 0.6
Immature 28 14
First year production 39 23
Mature 50-87 48
Phosphorus deficient plants show signs of stunted growth. The mature leaves are paler at the tips and margins which is followed by tip and marginal scorch. Young leaves are reduced in size, often showing interveinal pallor, and are at an acute angle with the stem.
K.C. Willson. Coffee, Cocoa and Tea. Crop Production Science in Horticulture No 8. CABI Publishing, 1999
G. Mossu. Cocoa. The Tropical Agriculturist. Macmillan press, 1992
G.A.R. Wood and R.A. Lass. Cocoa. 4th edition. Longman, 1985
What other members of the genus Theobroma are possible origins of cocoa-like products?
Theobroma bicolor is a species, similar to cacao, cultivated from southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil. It produces beans that are called pataxte. These are used to make a drink or they can be used to make a poor quality chocolate. The beans are sometimes used to adulterate true cacao produce.
Theobroma grandiflorum, known as cupuaçu in Brazil, is used to produce a drink from the mucilage around the beans.
In modern day Amazonia, the Arawete and Asurini Indians cultivate Theobroma speciosum. The Indians can make a crude, low quality chocolate from the seeds of T. speciosum, but the pulp is more generally eaten.
Wood, G.A.R., Lass, R.A. Cocoa. Fourth edition. Longman, 1985
Coe, S.D., Coe, M.D., The true history of chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 1996
Dand, R., The international cocoa trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Young, A.M., The chocolate tree. A natural history of cacao. Smithsonian Institution, 1994
How long does it take for a cocoa bean to be ripe?
After successful pollination of the flowers the fruits containing the beans, known as cocoa pods, take 5 to 6 months to ripen.
What is the average yield beans/hectare for Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria?
Please find below some data on cocoa bean production and estimated land area planted with cocoa trees for 2001/02 in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. A rough estimate of the yield per hectare can be calculated using these figures:
[TABLE NEEDS ADDING]
2001/02 Côte d’Ivoire Ghana Nigeria
Production (tonnes) 1,265,000 340,600 170,000
Land area (hectares) 2,350,000 1,212,000 607,000
Trends in global supply and demand for cocoa. International Cocoa Organization, (EX/116/7), 20 February 2003
How much time and money would have to be invested to get a cocoa farm operational and what are the on-going production costs?
Setting up a cocoa farm
Starting a cocoa farm involves:
- Obtaining the land for cocoa cultivation – this is a cost that will vary widely around the world and within a country. The land must be chosen so as to provide the best soil and climate for the cocoa trees.
- Establishing the plantation – the costs involved here include clearing the land, planting shade and cocoa trees, pruning, weeding, fertiliser and pesticide applications and constructing the required infrastructure such as roads, irrigation ditches, nursery and processing facilities.
- Maintaining the plantation – these costs involve pruning, weeding, fertiliser and pesticide applications, harvesting and post harvest processing.
The largest cost element in both establishing and maintaining a plantation is the labour. Farm sizes vary and therefore labour costs vary, with many smallholders working the land themselves rather than hiring labourers. So the costs for a large estate will be higher than for a smallholder. A review of the case studies on labour usage for the maintenance of cocoa suggested that the mean labour usage, assuming a labourer works 230 days per year, in plantation conditions is 3.37 hectares per man per year. The figure for the initial establishment of the plantation would be a lower number of hectares per man per year.
Labour costs are followed by input costs such as fertilisers and pesticides; however, their use will depend on other factors such as the quality of the soil and the level of pests and diseases.
As an example, in Brazil in 1989 the input costs were considered to be 25% of the total costs to produce 750kg of beans per hectare, while labour made up 62%, with the balance consisting of administration and general expenses.
Financial success in setting up a cocoa farm requires a quick return on the initial investment and increasing yields to reduce the unit costs.
The time taken for setting up the plantation also needs to be taken into consideration. The land should be cleared and shade trees grown before planting the cocoa seedlings; this could take a year. Cocoa trees take 3-5 years to yield a crop, with hybrid varieties providing crops earlier. But cocoa trees should be productive for about 25 years.
Production costs differ widely between producing countries and therefore the price at which it becomes unprofitable to grow cocoa will be different for different countries.
Please find below some examples:
Contribution of various farm operations and inputs to cocoa production costs in Ghana at current (1995) prices/ha
Weeding 45,000 cedis
Capsid control 3,750 cedis
Black pod control 45,000 cedis
Other operations 114,750 cedis
Insecticides (Capsids) 12,000 cedis
Fungicide (Black Pod) 52,800 cedis
Fuel mixture 4,570 cedis
Fertilizer 138,600 cedis
Cutlasses 6,000 cedis
Mistblower 7,200 cedis
Knapsack sprayer 5,477 cedis
Total production cost 435,147 cedis
(Average cedi/US$ exchange rate for 1995 = 1200 [source: IMF])
In February 2000 the US attaché reported that the official published production costs of an Ivorian farmer ranged between 194 and 266 F CFA/kg for traditional production depending on whether the farmer was paying labour costs of between 800 F CFA and 1,200 F CFA per day. For modern production, using hybrid seeds and inputs, production costs ranged between 224 and 285 F CFA/kg with labour costs between 800 and 1,200 F CFA per day.
In January 2000 a Reuters news story reported average Ivorian production costs at between 236 and 296 CFA francs per kg. Modern hybrid trees produce 900 kg per hectare per year, compared with 400 kg from traditional methods, but the hybrids require more cash for spraying and fertiliser.
The cost analysis indicated that the production cost, at an annual production of 100 tons of dried cocoa beans, was Rp 79.50/kg dried beans.
Region production cost (b) 1989 F/kg
South 0 to 50
Lekie 50 to 80
Mbam (a) 20 to 100
Meme 150 (b) (200 to 300)
(a) pioneer zone, young plantations
(b) phytosanitary products 100% subsidised in the SODECAO zone (South, Lekie, Mbam)
Wood, G.A.R. and Lass, R.A., Cocoa. Longman, 4th edition, 1985
Mossu, G. Cocoa. CTA/Macmillan Press, 1992
Dand, R., The International Cocoa Trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
E.G. Asante The economic relevance of plant disease and pest management in the Ghana Cocoa Industry. First International Cocoa Pests and Diseases Seminar, Accra, Ghana, 6-10 November 1995, pp288-301
US attache report on Ivory Coast cocoa. USDA, 7 February 2000
Crimmins, C. RTRS – Low prices threaten cocoa quality. Reuters, 1pp, 13 January 2000
Sri-Mulato, Atamwinata, O., Yusianto, Handaka, Muehlbauer, d. W. Kinerja Model Unit Sentralisasi Pengolahan Kakao Rakyat Skala Kelompok Tani. (The performance of a model of cocoa centralized processing unit for cooperative use.) Pelita Perkebunan, 13 (2): 100-114, August 1997
B. Losch, J.L. Fusillier, P. Dupraz. Strategies des producteurs en zone cafière et cacaoyère du Cameroun. CIRAD, 1991
How many smallholders are there worldwide producing cocoa? What proportion of cocoa worldwide is produced by smallholders?
Proportion of cocoa worldwide produced by smallholders: ‘Almost 90% of production comes from smallholdings under 5 hectares.’
de Lattre-Gasquet, M., Despréaux, D., Barel, M., Prospective de la filière du cacao. (Prospective study of the cocoa commodity chain) Plantations, Recherche, Développement, 5 (6): 423- 434, November-December 1998.
Smallholders involved in cocoa, ICCO global estimates:
Smallholding averages 3 hectares (smallholding is usually defined as a farm holding of less than 10 hectares, range 2ha to 5ha)
2.5 million smallholders (could be up to 3 million, including those for whom cocoa is not the main activity)
Smallholder yields: Average 350kg/hectare (ranges from 200kg in Ecuador to 1,500kg for smallholders in Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Ghana 300kg, Cote d’Ivoire 450kg).
|Country/Region||Total number of workers (million)|
|Asia and Oceania||2.11|
|Papua New Guinea||0.10|
Factors which affect productivity
Factors affecting production:
Return on investment – High returns from selling cocoa for little input will naturally cause more cocoa planting to take place. As a tree crop this affects long term production. In the short term higher returns encourage growers to apply more inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides which increases the yield. However, farmer prices are sometimes set by governments or can be influenced by internal market factors other than the world cocoa price.
Government schemes – The role of government in assisting growers is a leading factor in the grower’s decision whether or not to plant cocoa. Assistance can take different forms, from assistance with setting up and rehabilitation to cheap loans. For example, in Indonesia in 1990 the government made available loans at low rates of interest for the establishment of plantations and many companies were tempted into cocoa growing. Extension services may also assist smallholders.
Alternative crops – Land suitable for cocoa is also able to support other crops. If cocoa has a low return for a long time, the farmer may switch to another commodity or food crop despite the costs of uprooting and replanting.
Pests, diseases, drought and floods – Pests and diseases, droughts and floods can destroy crops and make the decision to switch to another crop easier.
Yield – Yield depends on the age, type and planting distribution of trees and level of inputs needed. The balance between yield and input costs is important to the grower. For example, Malaysia had high yields of 700 kg per hectare but also had high costs of between 70 cents and $1.30 per kg.
Tree-stock characteristics – The production capability of the trees and their ability to resist disease are also an important factor in productivity. The grower with a large estate and more resources will naturally make more use of the most up-to-date planting material whereas the smallholder will depend on government extension services or neighbours. The age profile of tree-stock is also important when assessing potential production as yields will vary with age.
Environmental influences – The climate, soil, water supply, human actions and other environmental factors can also affect productivity.
Costs – A large part of the cost of establishment and maintenance of production is labour. The next major cost is inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides. Both these costs will vary with the size of the farm and the type of farming carried out. Financial success in setting up a cocoa farm depends on quick returns from the initial investment and increasing yields to cut unit costs.
Dand, R. The international cocoa trade. Woodhead Publishing Ltd, 1993
Some observations on the cocoa industry in Sarawak. Cocoa Growers’ Bulletin, (50): pages 32-37, December 1996
What time of year is cocoa harvested?
The cocoa harvest is not confined to one short period but is spread over several months once or twice a year. The timing of the cocoa harvest varies from country to country, depending on the climate and the variety of cocoa. In countries with a pronounced wet and dry season, the main crop occurs 5-6 months after the start of the wet season.
The percentage of crop harvested in the main crop season and the mid-crop season will vary from country to country. The biggest differential between main and mid crop harvests is in Africa where the mid-crop accounts for about 15%-20% of the total harvest; in other countries the differential is not so obvious.
The following table gives an idea of the main and mid crop seasons in selected countries.
|Country||Main crop||Mid crop|
|Congo, Democratic Republic||Sep-Mar||Apr-Sep|
|Papua New Guinea||Apr-Jul||Oct-Dec|
G.A.R. Wood, R.A. Lass, Cocoa. Longman, 4th Edition, 1985)
Cocoa to 1993: a commodity in crisis. Economist Intelligence Unit, 1993, p34
Gordian 57 (1958)
How exactly is cocoa harvested?
Pods containing cocoa beans grow from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree. Harvesting involves removing ripe pods from the trees and opening them to extract the wet beans.
Pods are suitable for harvest for 3 to 4 weeks, after which time the beans begin to germinate. It is therefore necessary to harvest at regular intervals as the pods do not all ripen at the same time. The frequency of harvesting can have an effect on yield.
The pods are harvested manually by making a clean cut through the stalk with a well sharpened blade. For pods high on the tree, a pruning hook type of tool can be used with a handle on the end of a long pole. By pushing or pulling according to the position of the fruit, the upper and lower blades of the tool enable the stalk to be cut cleanly without damaging the branch which bears it.
During harvesting it is important not to damage the flower cushion which will produce the flowers and fruits of subsequent harvests, and care must be taken not to damage the tree, which would make it easy for parasitic fungi to penetrate the tissues of the tree.
The pods are opened to remove the beans within a week to 10 days after harvesting. In general the harvested pods are grouped together and split either in or at the edge of the plantation. Sometimes the pods are transported to a fermentary before splitting. If the pods are opened in the planting areas the discarded husks can be distributed throughout the fields to return nutrients to the soil. The best way of opening the pods is to use a wooden club which, if it strikes the central area of the pod, causes it to split into two halves; it is then easy to remove by hand the beans. A cutting tool, such as a machete, is often used to split the pod though this can damage the beans. Some machinery has been developed for pod opening but smallholders in general carry out the process manually.
After extraction from the pod, the beans undergo a fermentation and drying process before being bagged for delivery.
Wood, G.A.R. and Lass, R.A., Cocoa. Longman, 4th edition, 1985
Mossu, G. Cocoa. CTA/Macmillan Press, 1992
Dand, R. The International Cocoa Trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Fermenting & Drying
What role, if any, do yeasts play in the cocoa production process?
Cocoa pods are harvested and split open to release the beans. The beans are embedded in a pulp. When the pods are broken, the beans and pulp are sterile but they become contaminated with a variety of microrganisms from the pods, labourers’ hands, insects, vessels used for transport, etc.
The pulp surrounding the beans undergoes a fermentation process which develops the colour and flavour of the beans. The initial anaerobic, low pH and high sugar conditions of the pulp favour yeast activity. Some research has found 24 strains of yeast on fermenting cocoa, but research by Rombouts identified 16 species. The fermentation process begins with yeasts converting sugars in the pulp to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Bacteria then start oxidising the alcohol into lactic acid and then, as conditions become more aerobic, acetic acid. This produces heat and raises the temperature in the first 24 hours. As the pulp breaks down and drains away, bacteria continue to be active until fermentation is complete.
The yeasts found during cocoa fermentation come from the surrounding environment, eg soil, trees etc. The species most frequently found at this stage are the Saccharomyces spp (in particular S. cerevisiae, Candida krusei, Kloeckra apiculata, Pichia Fermentans, Hansenula anomola and Schizo-saccharomyces pombe). Research by Hansen and Welty shows that yeasts multiply very rapidly during fermentation and are able to survive drying and storage. One can find up to 107 yeast/gram in stored beans.
After fermentation the cocoa beans are dried.
During the subsequent processing of the cocoa beans the beans are cleaned and can then undergo a form of thermal pre-treatment to separate the shell from the bean. One form of thermal pre-treatment uses infra-red technology in which the beans undergo infra-red radiation on a fluidised bed or vibrating conveyor. Water accumulates on the surface of the bean and bursts the shell. The high surface temperature induced by this process brings about a drop in the amount of microbiological contamination, especially yeast and other fungi.
The beans are then separated from the shells and roasted. Following roasting the beans are turned into cocoa mass by grinding.
The quality of the cocoa mass is important due to the natural variability which exists in cocoa. Quality criteria for cocoa mass include figures for the number of yeasts found per gram – maximum 50, and for alkalised cocoa powder – a normal maximum of 50 with a limit of 100.
Beckett, S.T., Industrial chocolate manufacture and use. 2nd edition. Blackie/Chapman & Hall, 1994
Cook, L.R., Meursing, E.H., Chocolate production and use. Revised edition. Harcourt Brace Johanovich, 1982
Rohan, T.A. Processing of raw cocoa for the market. FAO Agricultural Studies No 60. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1963.
Mabbett, T., Mighty microbes. Coffee and Cocoa International, 25 (3): 40, May/June 1998
Drying cocoa beans
Cocoa beans are dried after fermentation in order to reduce the moisture content from about 60% to about 7.5%. Drying must be carried out carefully to ensure that off-flavours are not developed.
Drying should take place slowly. If the beans are dried too quickly some of the chemical reactions started in the fermentation process are not allowed to complete their work and the beans are acidic with a bitter flavour. However, if the drying is too slow, moulds and off-flavours can develop. Various research studies indicate that bean temperatures during drying should not exceed 65oC.
There are two methods for drying beans – sun drying and artificial drying.
For sun drying, the beans are spread out on mats, trays or on concrete floors in the sun. In some countries in the West Indies and South America drying takes place on wooden drying floors with moveable roofs. The beans are normally turned or raked to ensure uniformity of drying and the beans need to be covered when it rains. Sun drying is used in countries where harvesting occurs in a dry period such as West Africa or the West Indies. With adequate sunshine and little rainfall, sun drying may take about one week, but if the weather is dull or rainy it will take longer.
Artificial drying may be resorted to in countries where there is a lack of pronounced dry periods after harvesting and fermentation, such as Brazil, Ecuador and in South East Asia and sometimes in West Africa. Artificially dried beans can be of poor quality due to contamination from the smoke of fires or because the cocoa is dried too quickly.
The simplest forms of artificial driers are convection driers or Samoan driers which consists of a simple flue in a plenum chamber and a permeable drying platform above. Air inlets must be provided in order to allow the convection current to flow without allowing smoke to taint the beans. These driers are simple to construct and have been used in Western Samoa, Cameroon, Brazil (the Secador drier) and the Solomon Islands.
Other artificial driers are platform driers using heat exchangers, where the hot air is kept separate from the products of combustion which pass to the atmosphere, or direct fired heaters, where the products of combustion mix with the hot air and are blown through the beans. These driers can use oil or solid fuels as a source of power. The addition of a fan forces the hot air through the beans and creates a forced draught dryer.
Another type of dryer uses conduction. Drying platforms built of slate or cement are heated at one end by a fire or heat source. Small versions of these using oil drums with flues embedded in cement were used in Cameroon at one time and were known as Cameroon Dryers. Heat distribution is not uniform with this type of dryer.
Other techniques have been used in association with the above to overcome the problem of turning or raking the beans in the dryer – stirring the beans in a circular bed or turning the beans in a rotary drum.
J.E.K. Amoah, Development of consumption, commercial production and marketing. Jemre Enterprises, 1995
R.J. Dand, The international cocoa trade. 2nd edition. Woodhead Publishing Ltd, 1999
G.A.R. Wood and R.A. Lass Cocoa. 4th edition. Longman, 1985
Cunha, J. Desempenho do secador ‘burareiro’3*3 m na secagem do cacau. (Performance of the ‘Burareiro’ 3*3 m dryer for cocoa.) Agrotrópica 2 (3): 157-164, September-December 1990
Cunha, J. Desempenho do secador tubular com ventilacao forcada, na secagem do cacau. (Performance of the ‘Tubular’ dryer with forced air flow in cocoa drying.) Agrotrópica 3 (1): 39-43, January-April 1991
Information on the flavour assessment/tasting and off-flavours of chocolate
Assessment of flavour can take place at the cocoa liquor stage or when made up fully into chocolate. Liquor tasting allows the tasting to be done without the addition of cocoa butter, sugar and milk products which dilute the taste impression. Tasting can be carried out by a panel of tasters. Samples are evaluated for strength of cocoa or chocolate flavour, residual acidity, bitterness and astringency, and off-flavours.
- can arise from the presence of mould in the beans which gives a mouldy/musty flavour to the chocolate
- can arise from contamination by wood smoke during drying or storage which gives a characteristic smoky off-flavour. This flavour is often reminiscent of smoke cured bacon
- an acid taste can arise through excessive acidity developing during fermentation and it generally inhibits the chocolate flavour from developing
- bitterness is part of the chocolate flavour but it becomes a problem if it is excessive. Bitterness and astringency are caused by poor fermentation or poor planting materials
- cocoa beans can absorb flavours from other products such as rubber, oil based paints etc. during storage and transport
The International Confectionery Association (ICA), formerly the International Office of Cocoa, Chocolate and Sugar Confectionery (IOCCC), have a procedure for identifying flavour defects and off-flavours in cocoa liquor. It is a test that can be carried out by a panel of five to ten people and does not require any specialised training or equipment. The ICA can be contacted at: 1 rue Defacqz, B1000 Brussels, Belgium. Tel; +32 (2) 539 18 00 Fax: +32 (2) 539 15 75
Cocoa beans. Chocolate manufacturers quality requirements. Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance (BCCCA), October 1996
The detection of specific off-flavours in cocoa beans. Analytical method. IOCCC, 1996.
How is the quality of cocoa checked – by hand, by machine?
The quality of cocoa is checked through sampling.
The sampler selects at random a significant percentage of the bags for inspection and a stabbing iron is used to draw a number of beans from the selected bags. Or, if the cocoa is in bulk, samples are taken at random from the beans as they enter a hopper or as they are spread on tarpaulins.
Different authorities may set a differing level of beans/samples for inspection. The International Standard recommends that the samples should amount to not less than 300 beans for every tonne of cocoa. For bagged cocoa, samples should be taken from not less than 30% of the bags, and for bulk cocoa there should be not less than 5 samplings per tonne.
The samples are analysed using the cut test. Most exporting countries’ authorities specify standards dependent on the International Standards Organization cut test, as do normal physical cocoa contracts. The cut test provides an assessment of the beans from which analysts may infer certain characteristics of the cocoa, which gives an indication of quality.
The cut test involves counting off 300 beans. These 300 beans are then cut lengthwise through the middle and examined. Separate counts are made of the number of beans which are defective in that they are mouldy, slaty, insect damaged, germinated or flat. The results for each kind of defect are expressed as a percentage of the 300 beans examined. The amount of defective beans revealed in the cut test gives manufacturers an indication of the flavour characteristics of the beans.
Bean counts are another measure of quality that producing countries often use, though there is no internationally accepted bean size classification. The Federation of Cocoa Commerce defines the following method for bean counts: A sample of not less than 600 grammes of whole beans, irrespective of size but not including flat beans, will be counted to obtain the number of beans per 100 grammes.
Further tests are carried out by chocolate manufacturers and cocoa processors, particularly for beans from origins that are inconsistent in quality or prone to off flavours. The manufacturer cannot sift out all the defective beans and so must ensure good quality at the selection stage. Consistency in quality for the production of cocoa mass cannot be achieved when using one source of cocoa beans because of the large natural variability which exists in each lot. The differences can be reduced by having a number of different types and lots of cocoa beans of known quality in stock and making an appropriate blend. Strict control of the roasting and alkalising processes is also required to produce the best quality.
For the chocolate manufacturer the yield of nib is very important, as is the amount of cocoa butter in the nib. Higher levels of cocoa butter mean that lower levels will need to be added later on in the manufacturing process. Nib yields are determined in the laboratory.
Flavour is also important for chocolate manufacturers. Flavour assessment is normally carried out by panels of between five and ten experienced tasters. Off flavours can readily be detected by tasting roasted ground nib of cocoa liquor directly or they can be mixed with sugar and water to make a basic dark chocolate before tasting. Mouldy and smoky off flavours and excessive bitterness cannot be removed during processing. Acid tastes can be altered in processing through neutralisation.
Sub standard beans can be pressed whole to produce expelled cocoa butter which is then refined. Better quality beans are deshelled before pressing to produce pure pressed cocoa butter and cocoa press cake (which ultimately becomes cocoa powder). Chocolate manufacturers have a number of requirements with respect to the quality of cocoa butter: hardness, melting and solidification behaviour.
Cocoa trade associations and national authorities produce standards or gradings for cocoa beans covering the bean count per 100g and the percentage of permitted faults, moisture and foreign matter, and the International Standards Organization provides a specification for cocoa beans.
The Federation of Cocoa Commerce Ltd
Cannon Bridge House
1 Cousin Lane
Tel: (020) 7379 2884
Fax: (020) 7379 2389
Cocoa Merchants Association of America
26 Broadway – Suite 707
Tel: (212) 3637334
Fax: (212) 3637678
Food and Agriculture Organization – Model Ordinance
International Standards Organization – ISO 2451
Brazil – National Foreign Trade Council
Cameroon – ONCC
Congo – ONCC
Côte d’Ivoire – Ministry of Agriculture
Dominican Republic – Cocoa Department, Ministry of Agriculture
Ecuador – Ministry of Industry, Commerce
Ghana – Ministry of Agriculture
Indonesia – Indonesian Cocoa Association
Malaysia – Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority/Malaysian Cocoa Board
Nigeria – Federal Produce Inspection Service
Papua New Guinea – Papua New Guinea Cocoa Board
Sierra Leone – SLPMB
Solomon Islands – Commodities Export Marketing Authority
Vanuatu – Dept of Agriculture
USA – 21 Code of Federal Regulations, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Western Samoa – 1989 Cocoa Act
Dand, R. The International Cocoa Trade. Woodhead Publishing Ltd, 1993
Cocoa beans. Chocolate manufacturers’ quality requirements. The Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance, 4th edition, October 1996
Beckett, S.T., Industrial chocolate manufacture and use. Blackie Academic & Professional, 2nd edition , 1994
Cocoa. A shippers manual. International Trade Centre, 1990
Dand, R., The international cocoa trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Cocoa: A guide to trade practices. International Trade Centre, 2001
How does the fermentation process work on the cocoa bean and how long does it take?
Fermentation can be carried out in a variety of ways, but all methods depend on removing the beans from the pods and heaping them together to allow micro-organisms to develop and initiate the fermentation of the pulp surrounding the beans.
On smallholdings, fermentation is usually done in heaps of beans enclosed by plantain or banana leaves. Heaps can be used to ferment any quantity from about 25kg to 2,500kg of cocoa beans. The fermentation usually lasts about five days and some farmers will mix the beans on the second or third day. Another smallholder method is to use baskets, lined and covered with leaves, to ferment the beans. Similarly, holes or small depressions in the ground can be used but this makes no provision for the juices to drain away.
In plantations or fermentaries, fermentation is normally carried out in large wooden boxes that typically hold 1 to 2 tonnes of beans. The boxes must have provision for the liquefied pulp to drain away and for entry of air. Boxes can measure 3ft to 5ft across and be 3ft deep, but shallow levels (10-20 inches) of beans are preferred to promote good aeration. The beans can be covered with banana leaves or sacking to conserve the heat generated during fermentation. Beans can be transferred from one box to another each day to ensure uniform fermentation and increase aeration. The boxes can be tiered to allow easy transfer of beans. Plantations usually ferment for a longer period than smallholders and 6 to 7 days is usual.
In some areas, where particularly acidic beans are produced, the beans are pressed prior to fermentation to reduce the amount of pulp and allow for better aeration of the beans and so reduce the acidity.
The fermentation process begins with the growth of micro-organisms. In particular, yeasts grow on the pulp surrounding the beans. Insects, such as the Drosophila melanogaster or vinegar-fly, are probably responsible for the transfer of micro-organisms to the heaps of beans. The yeasts convert the sugars in the pulp surrounding the beans to ethanol. Bacteria then start to oxidise the ethanol to acetic acid and then to carbon dioxide and water, producing more heat and raising the temperature. The pulp starts to break down and drain away during the second day. Lactic acid, which converts the alcohol to lactic acid in anaerobic conditions, is produced but, as the acetic acid more actively oxidises the alcohol to acetic acid, conditions become more aerobic and halt the activity of lactic acid. The temperature is raised to 40oC to 45oC during the first 48 hours of fermentation. In the remaining days, bacterial activity continues under increasing aeration conditions as the pulp drains away and the temperature is maintained. The process of turning or mixing the beans increases aeration and, consequently, bacterial activity. The acetic acid and high temperatures kill the cocoa bean by the second day. The death of the bean causes cell walls to break down and previously segregated substances to mix. This allows complex chemical changes to take place in the bean such as enzyme activity, oxidation and the breakdown of proteins into amino acids. These chemical reactions cause the chocolate flavour and colour to develop. The length of fermentation varies depending on the bean type, Forastero beans require about 5 days and Criollo beans 2-3 days.
Following fermentation the beans are dried. The oxidation reactions begun through fermentation continue during drying.
Beckett, S.T., Industrial chocolate manufacture and use. 2nd edition. Blackie Academic & Professional, 1994
Dand, R., The international cocoa trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Cook, L.R., Meursing, E.H., Chocolate production and use. Revised edition. Harcourt Brace Johanovic, 1982
Wood, G.A.R., Lass, R.A., Cocoa. 4th edition. Longman, 1985
Storing Cocoa Beans
Factors to consider in the storage area in order to minimize risk
- The warehouse should have cement or non-flammable floors without cracks and crevices for insects to hide in;
- Ideally the floor level should be higher than the surrounding land to prevent flooding and to allow water to flow away;
- Walls should be of non-flammable material without cracks and crevices;
- Adequate ventilation is necessary to prevent an increase in mould;
- The roof should be insulated but should not be made of wood;
- Bags may be bulk-stowed but ideally the bottom layer should be on pallets allowing an air space of 5-10cm and the top layer should be at least 1m away from the roof. The stacks should also be positioned away from outside walls;
- Fumigation and other forms of insect control can be carried out to ensure that the products are pest-free;
- The cocoa should be regularly inspected;
- No other products should be stored with the cocoa to prevent contamination;
- Access to the storage areas can be controlled.
Physical & Chemical information on Cocoa
Physical and chemical information on cocoa beans, butter, mass and powder
The physics and chemistry of cocoa beans and cocoa products is very complex and changes throughout the life of the bean, depending on the processing it receives.
The following gives an indication of the changes in the bean through its life, together with some references that give further more detailed information on the physics and chemistry of cocoa beans.
Cocoa beans are the seeds of the tree Theobroma cacao. Each seed consists of two cotyledons (the nib) and a small embryo plant, all enclosed in a skin (the shell). The cotyledons store the food for the developing plant and become the first two leaves of the plant when the seed germinates. The food store consists of fat, known as cocoa butter, which amounts to about half the weight of the dry seed. The quantity of fat and its properties such as melting point and hardness depend on the variety of cocoa and the environmental conditions.
The seeds are fermented which causes many chemical changes in both the pulp surrounding the seeds and within the seeds themselves. These changes cause the chocolate flavour to develop and the seeds to change colour. The seeds are then dried and despatched to processors as the raw material for the production of cocoa mass, cocoa powder and cocoa butter. The first stage of processing includes roasting the beans, to change the colour and flavour, and shell removal. After roasting and deshelling an alkalising process can take place, to alter flavour and colour.
One analysis of the chemical composition of beans after fermentation and drying is as follows:
|Nib % Maximum||Shell % Maximum|
|Fat (cocoa butter, shell fat)||57||5.9|
This gives an indication of the chemical composition of the bean but it must be remembered that this will vary depending on the type of bean, the quality of the fermentation and drying and the subsequent processing of the bean.
Cocoa mass or liquor
Cocoa mass is produced by grinding the nib of the cocoa bean. The quality of the cocoa liquor will depend on the beans used. Manufacturers often blend different types of beans to gain the required quality, flavour and taste. The cocoa liquor can undergo further roasting and alkalisation to alter the colour and flavour which will also alter its chemical composition.
The fat or cocoa butter can be extracted from the bean in a number of ways. Pure press butter is extracted from the cocoa mass by horizontal presses. Sub-standard cocoa beans can be pressed without deshelling by using continuous expeller presses. Pure press butter needs no cleaning but it is often deodourised. A solvent extraction process can be used to extract butter from the cake residue left after the expeller process, this type of butter must be refined.
Cocoa butter obtained by pressing the cocoa nib exhibits the following properties: brittle fracture below 20ºC, a melting point about 35ºC with softening around 30-32ºC.
Cocoa butter is composed of a number of glycerides. Two studies established that the percentage of the constituent glycerides is as follows:
|Trisaturated||2.5 to 3.0|
|Stearo-diolein||6 to 12|
|Palmito-diolein||7 to 8|
|Oleo-distearin||18 to 22|
|Oleo-palmitostearin||52 to 57|
Cocoa powder is formed from the cocoa mass. Presses are used to remove some of the fat and leave a solid material called cocoa press cake. These cakes are then crushed to form cocoa powder. The processing can be altered to produce cocoa powders of different composition and with different levels of fat.
An indication of the composition of cocoa powder is as follows, but it must be remembered that this will be different depending on the roasting, alkalisation and pressing processes undertaken:
|pH (10% suspension)||5.7|
|Water soluble ash %||2.2|
|Alkalinity of water soluble ash as K2O in original cocoa %||0.8|
|Phosphate (as P2O5) %||1.9|
|Chloride (as NaCl) %||0.04|
|Ash insoluble in 50% HCl||0.08|
|Shell % (calculated to unalkalised nib)||1.4|
|Nitrogen (corrected for alkaloids) %||3.4|
|Nitrogen corrected for alkaloids x 6.25 %||21.2|
Beckett S.T., Industrial chocolate manufacture and use. Second edition. Blackie Academic & Professional, 1994
Minifie B.W., Chocolate, cocoa, and confectionery science and technology. Third edition. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989
Dand R., The international cocoa trade. Woodhead Publishing, 1993
Cook L.R. and Meursing E.H., Chocolate production and use. Revised edition. Harcourt Brace Johanovich, 1982
The cocoa manual. A guide to De Zaan’s cocoa products. Cacao de Zaan, 1993
The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) is a global organization, composed of both cocoa producing and cocoa consuming member countries.
International Cocoa Organization
06 BP 1166 Abidjan 06
Tel: +225 22 51 49 50/51
Fax: +225 22 51 49 79