During a recent holiday, to the beautiful Dominican Republic in the sunny Caribbean, we were lucky enough to visit a small, family run cocoa plantation.
Our host expertly talked us through the various stages of each process required to produce our beloved chocolate, also known as 'Food of the Gods'
The farm owner showed us a variety of cocoa pods and explained that when young the pods are usually either green, red or purple but their colour changes to yellow or orange as they ripen.
Once opened up, we were amazed to see the contents of the cocoa pod as nestling inside was a mound of white pulp but surprisingly tasted quite sweet similar to that of mango. However we were warned not to bite into the actual beans themselves as they would be quite bitter.
The smell of the cocoa beans when they have been fully dried and ground can only be described as ...... the best smell on this earth!Below we have compiled a few facts that you may not know about the cocoa tree and its delicious fruit.
* The Theobroma cacao (the cocoa tree) grows to approximately 30 feet in height is a distant botanical relative of cotton and marshmallow.
* The tree blooms white flowers and can take around 4 to 5 years to bear its colourful fruit. The cacao pods take 4 or 5 months to grow but several weeks before they actually ripen.
* The cocoa tree can live up to 100 years old but will only produce fruit for half of its lifetime. The beans take about 5 days to ferment in special boxes and 7 to 14 days to dry in the sun.
* Each cacao pod holds approximately 40 to 50 cacao beans and it can take several hundred processed beans to produce just 500g of chocolate
* The pollination process of the flowers of the cacao tree is surprisingly not achieved by bees as you would expect but by little midges and flies.
* Cocoa butter (Theobroma Oil) is used to treat bruises and stretch marks and is particularly popular with dark skinned people as a moisturiser.
* Historically the cocoa bean has been used as currency - back in the day you could buy a turkey for 200 beans and yet a slave would only set you back by a mere 100 beans!