Cocoa pods are harvested manually and then opened to extract the wet cocoa beans. The pods are cut through the stalk with a sharp blade, and then opened to remove the beans within 1 to 2 weeks after harvesting. The pods are then grouped together.
Cocoa beans are fermented and dried on the farm, after harvesting and splitting the cocoa pods, pulp-covered beans are stored in boxes or baskets or heaped into piles. The pulp layer heats up in the sun to ferment the beans and this process may last three to seven days, depending on the weather and other factors. This is a necessary step in enhancing the flavour of the cocoa beans.
Inadequately fermented cocoa beans will not develop their characteristic flavour profile associated with good-tasting chocolate. Over-fermented beans can produce a sour or acidic taste that is unappealing to consumers.
Cocoa beans are dried in the sun as spread out on mats, trays, or concrete floors for five to seven days. The drying process stops fermentation and enhances the beans’ shelf life. The beans are turned and raked to ensure even drying. The final quality of the cocoa beans depends on how quickly they are dried; not too quick to avoid acidic flavour, but not too slow since it leads to low acidity, poor colouring or a high mould content.
The beans are dried, cleaned, weighed and packed into jute sacks by the farmers themselves. After this process is complete, they transport their cocoa produce for inspection to see if it needs further drying and sort it by quality, then send it to the warehouse.
Shade trees and improved cocoa seedlings are also distributed to farmers to encourage replanting and renew & boost cocoa plantation in Nigeria. These seedlings can grow in a wide variety of soil types and thrive in both humid and arid climates. The healthiest cocoa trees are those that have an ample supply of water, but not too much, as this can cause the cocoa beans to rot.