Cacao, how I love you. If you have been reading me for some time, you know that there have been many an affectionate song, sung about the benefits of raw cacao beans. Remember these goodies:
- Raw Hot Chocolate For Breakfast
- Chocolate or Sex?
- David Wolfe: Living High with Chocolate For Breakfast
- My Chocolate Sol
Obviously, a visit to a running cocoa plantation was going to be on the itinerary of the Nourish You Soul retreat. Off to Fond Doux plantation, where they grow, harvest and ferment the cocoa beans and then ship'em off to Hershey's where these super powered healthy beans get turned into junk food.
The morning before we ventured to the plantation, there was some debate around the table regarding whether what we believe to be raw cacao, was actually raw. See, we had plucked a cocoa pod off a tree, cleaned the pulp off from around the beans, let them dry out in the sun and what was left was a dry, chalky, bitter, non-chocolate tasting bean.
Of course I went straight to the source and posted the question to David Wolfe who quickly responded, to try them and then we would know the truth. I still wasn't sure what he meant by that but off to the plantation we went. What we learned is that it is the fermentation of the bean that gives it the cacao/chocolate taste- and this, indeed, leaves it 100% raw and totes healthful and chocolatey delicious.
Pre-fermentation the cocoa beans are bitter and astringent, with no hint of chocolate at all. The the biochemical processes that occur during fermentation develop the precursors of the chocolate flavour. If you want to get technical, the initial stage of the fermentation process is anaerobic; yeast and bacteria utilize the sugars of the mucilage, producing acetic acid and generating heat, which kills the seed. The second, aerobic, stage, which begins after the beans are turned, oxidizes the acetic acid. You might now be asking, but how does a bean ferment? Good question! It is the fruity pulp that hangs on to the bean that does the fermenting, and this is what helps produce the flavours we know and love.
The highlight for us were....
1. Being surrounded by chocolate trees.
Wait just a second... where does the dancing coming in? Turns out, the cocoa dance is part of the final stage in traditional fermentation process and we got our very own demo of the Watching the cocoa dance! This is the final stage and this is where the magic is worked, in my opinion. This final stage helps to preserve the bean
So there you have it! A little bit of the ins on the magic that happens behind the beans.