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The Cacao Process

Curious about where our cacao comes from?

We only use sun dried Solomon island beans and nibs in our cacao paste, fresh from the islands.

Spray free and tested for heavy metals and toxins.

Below we explore every step of the process, from the cultivation and harvesting of cacao pods to the transformation of those beans into cacao nibs. 

Tree Planting

  • Fresh seeds are taken from a freshly cut open Cacao pod, washed and placed in soil, normally in a black plastic bag filled with soil, to germinate.

  • This is then allowed to grow into a sapling (a small tree).

  • When the sapling is about 10cms tall, it is planted in the ground.

  • The young cacao tree grows successfully in an environment where there is about 40% shade, so planting amongst taller trees is favoured.

  • In a healthy environment a young cacao tree will have tiny flowers within 2 years, and fully grown pods before three years.

  • Trees are planted approximately 5 meters apart, as the trees do not like to grow closely together.


  • Cacao trees have blossoms and pods all year long, the white and pink flowers are pollenated by a gnat, who then carries the pollen from one flower to another. It takes about four months for the pod to grow to the size of a small melon and another month to ripen into a yellow to dark orange pod. Each pod contains approximately 40 cocoa beans and is surrounded by a white pulp.

  • When the pod shows hints of yellow no matter the colour it is ready for harvesting. 

  • The pod will be cut from the branch with a small cutter this is done by hand so it does not damage any other pods on the tree, or flowers that will become pods. 

  • The trees are pruned to stay at a reasonable height so it can be harvested by hand. 

  • A quality producing tree will bear 60 – 80 pods a year. A low bearing tree, which are common in the Solomons, due to lack of care and knowledge will bear 20-30 pods a year. 

  • The tree do not drop their fruit. This is because it does not want additional cacao trees growing close to it, so relies on rats and birds to nibble through the husk of the pod, eat the seeds with the fruit and drop them further away. 

  • The fruit will ripen on a tree over approximately a 4 week period. The farmer walks through his farm simply looking for ripe fruit and cutting them close to the branch. 

Opening the pod

  • Ideally pods, once snipped from the tree are left in the heat of the sun for up to 4 days before they are cracked open. This begins the fermentation process and gives a higher quality in flavour.

  • The pods are cracked open, by being banged against each other (not with a knife in case one of the seeds is damaged) the fruit is then scooped out, leaving the central cord behind. All the fruit surrounding the seeds is scooped out with the seeds.

  • If the farmer is to ferment the seeds himself the fruits and seeds are placed;

    • In some countries/villages into woven baskets such as Samoa.

    • Or straight into wooden boxes, in the Solomons and Peru.

  • Some farmers sell the beans in the white pulp at this stage to what’s called an aggregator. This is called selling the WET BEANS. If the farmer sells the wet beans instead of fermenting them, they will place the seeds and fruit into sacks. 



  • The seeds are left in the fruit from the pod, wrapped tightly and left for 5 – 7 days.

  • The heat the beans reach within the first 24 hours is essential, and should be above 50 degrees.

  • The beans and fruit are placed into one tonne boxes.

  • The boxes are lined with bananas leaves from the villages and the top of the box covered with banana leaves and then heavy blankets to keep the heat in.

  • After 36 hours the beans are turned for the first time. 

  • The beans are then turned every 24 hours by rotating into an empty box next to it. It is very hot work, in 32 degrees turning beans over 50 degrees.

  • On day 6 the beans are tested (100 beans taken as samples to test if they are all fully brown in side), based on the samples the beans will be removed or allowed to ferment for another 24 hours.


  • The beans are laid out on sun drying wracks in solar houses so they do not have to be taken in at night when it often rains. This is one reason why farmers are happy to sell their wet beans as they do not have to have solar drying houses.

  • The beans are turned hourly on the first day and every second hour on the second day and then 3-4 times on the third and 4th day.  Each day they are spread out more thinly so they absorb more and more direct heat. 

  • By day 7 the beans should be fully dry. This is again tested. The beans should only have 7% moisture content. This is why the beans last in the tropics as most of the water has been removed in the drying.



  • The beans, once dried are stored in large sacks for grading. However as the beans are turned, they are meant to be graded, so very little grading is left at the end.

  • The beans are poured onto a wire mesh and checked for mould, being flat, or clumped together. 

  • The beans that do not past the quality test are either sent to the bulk market storage for sale; 

  • Or if they are good enough quality, but too small, go to value adding and turned into nibs.

  • Upon final completion, the beans are stored in jute sacks, ready for sale. 


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