The latest blog from Swedish graduate Emilie Persson:
John, the Recorder, took me to his brother Lot’s farm which was just a short ride from Assin Akonfudi, along a dirt road. Then we walked about a kilometre into the forest. The landscape was varied, with cocoa farms, bamboo trees and small swampy areas, all looking very green and lush.
At Lot’s farm, there were already a group of people sitting around a large pile of colourful cocoa. For the last few days all the cocoa pods that had been plucked from Lot’s trees had been carried in baskets to this collection point. Ready for the task of breaking open hundreds of cocoa pods (!) we started the work. The farmers were experts and opened the pods, took out the cocoa and threw away the empty pod at speed!
It was also impressive seeing how some of the women managed to work, while at the same time having their small children along with them. The children rested giggling in the shade on some banana leaves that had been covered with a blanket, while their mothers worked. Two of the women also had their smallest children on their backs.
Inside each pod the purple cocoa beans are covered in a sweet tasting white slimy pulp (a bit like lychees). All the fresh cocoa beans were collected in trays, which then were carried away to the fermentation place. The beans are piled on banana leaves that have been spread out on the ground, and the leaves are then wrapped over them to make a kind of tent. Here the beans will get hot and ferment for at least five days before they being carried back to Lot’s house where he will dry the beans on bamboo mats turning them regularly in the sun for seven days.
Allowing the fermenting and drying to take up to two weeks is very important to get the high quality cocoa that Kuapa Kokoo is known for. John explains – “You cannot dry the cocoa without fermenting it, because it will remain purple and will become mouldy.” He continued by describing what negative impact that would have on the chocolate. – “If you do not ferment the beans you would need more sugar when you produce the chocolate, to get a good flavour.” The hard work and passion of the Kuapa farmers is a crucial reason to why Divine chocolate tastes so divine!