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Cocoa farming: where does chocolate come from?


Cocoa production is a very long and fascinating process, which we owe to a tree called the cocoa tree. This tropical species has to be very well cared for in order to produce the famous cocoa beans that we then process into chocolate. Growing cocoa involves a whole process, including the maturing of several tons of cocoa beans. We explain everything in this article.


Cocoa farming: where does chocolate come from?

Do you know where chocolate comes from? This delicacy, which can be enjoyed in many different ways, comes to us from the cocoa tree, which is produced by the cocoa tree, or theobroma cacao. This tree is about ten metres tall and originates from Central America and the tropics. It bears both its flowers and its fruit, the pods, on its branches and trunk. Domesticated more than 3,000 years ago, the cocoa tree has survived the centuries and has become the world's source of our tastiest treats. Its flowers, which grow in small clusters, are pollinated by midges: only 1% of them will become pods containing several dozen cocoa beans, which will then be harvested to make chocolate.

A cocoa tree lives between 30 and 50 years, its fruits appear after 5 years and it can produce up to 350 kg per year. However, today the cocoa tree is threatened with extinction due to deforestation and pollution.

Cocoa growing: what are the ideal conditions?

A climatic balance between heat and rain

For cocoa to be grown properly, several conditions are necessary for it to grow in a healthy climate and to produce its best fruit.

Firstly, the cocoa tree must grow in a humid climate with constant heat: the optimum temperature for the cocoa tree to grow is 25°C, and rainfall must be fairly abundant given its water requirements.

This tree also requires shade, which is why it is often found under taller trees.

For all these reasons, the cocoa tree is found in tropical regions, especially in the Amazon, but also in African countries such as the Ivory Coast.

Threats to the cocoa tree despite a good climatic balance

Even if all the climatic conditions are met for the good development of your cocoa tree, it is nevertheless necessary to remain vigilant with regard to the parasites which can infest the plant and thus cause diseases to it, in particular swollen cocoa shoot virus, crown gall, Anthracnose and many others.

Cocoa growing: what are the different stages?

Planting the cocoa tree

If you want to become a cocoa farmer, you should know that cocoa can be planted all year round. You will just have to decide whether you want to grow it in a greenhouse or outside: it is impossible to grow a cocoa tree outside a greenhouse if you do not live in an environment that respects the conditions mentioned above. You will need to find a place that is both bright and shady, so that the heat of the sun's rays does not damage your tree. In the greenhouse as well as outdoors, the best solution would be to plant it under other taller species of trees, without neglecting the use of a good nutritious and moisture retaining soil for the tree.

Cocoa tree maintenance

The cocoa tree must be watered as regularly as possible; it is important that the soil in which it grows is not dry. In the greenhouse, it is essential to create a tropical atmosphere so that the cocoa tree feels at home in its environment. A humid atmosphere is crucial to the development of the cocoa tree.

The cocoa harvest

The cocoa is only harvested after 5 years. Its thousands of flowers will produce only a few pods (about 80 per year), inside which are beans surrounded by mucilage, a sweet, white pulp.

The best times to ripen the pods are November-March and May-July. Once the pods change colour, i.e. turn yellow or red, the harvest takes place.

Then the chocolate production process is far from over. The beans are removed from the pods and must ferment for a week to develop the cocoa flavours. Then the cocoa beans have to be dried in the sun or under an infrared lamp for up to two weeks: only after this stage can the cocoa be processed into chocolate, either industrially or by hand.