Experimental cacao nibs fermentation in the works

maui cacao

Almost everybody likes chocolate and cocoa powder but do you know where they are from or how they look like before processing? Or what does processing mean?

Theobroma cacao, also called cacao tree and cocoa tree, is a small (13–26 ft tall) evergreen tree, originally native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America. Cacao also grows in Hawaii so sometimes it is available at Napili Farmers Market. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make cocoa mass, cocoa powder, and chocolate. Processing basically means fermentation, drying and grinding, then further procedures, depending on the desired product.

As an experiment, we are about to ferment some cacao nibs then hopefully dry them out, then go from there! This is what we've done so far:

We opened the pods, took the beans out, made a heap of beans on a banana leaf then we covered them with another banana leaf and left them in a flat and dry spot where they will ferment for a couple of days. More photos and progress to come! :)

These are the final photos of our cacao... We fermented the cacao nibs for 3 days - at first, the nibs became a little bit darker and smelly, then the smell started slightly resembling to chocolate and the pulp slowly disappeared, then the nibs started to dry out (1st pic). We kept the nibs on the roof (literally) for a week, protected from rain but in the sun, and they turned darker and drier (2nd pic). As the final step, we ground the nibs in a coffee grinder - you can see the cacao powder in the last photo. It is not as fine as a store-bought cacao powder would be but it's all natural, locally grown and homemade and that's hard to beat!

So next time if you see cacao pods at the Napili Farmers Market, don't be afraid to purchase some! It might take 2-3 weeks until you have your own cacao powder but it's definitely worth it.