The cacao farm
CACAO SEEDS (beans)
Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree, and are usually called cacao beans or cocoa beans. The seeds are also planted to grow new trees to make sure there is always enough chocolate in the world!
Cacao trees need lots of love and care as they grow. Cacao trees are planted under the shade of larger "mother trees", creating wooded areas that provide habitat for tropical birds and wild animals.
About 3 to 5 years after planting, cacao trees start to produce the fruits whose seeds can be turned into delicious chocolate.
Each cacao pod is harvested by hand, cutting it from the tree with a special cutter at the end of a long stick to reach the highest pods.
Breaking the pods
Every cacao pod is skillfully opened with a machete and the almond-sized beans are pulled out. There are around 40 seeds in a pod, enough for about half a bar of chocolate! The beans are covered with a sweet white pulp that tastes yummy!
The fermentation center
Cacao beans are fermented to develop their chocolate flavor. To ensure consistency this is done in a Cacao-Trace collection and fermentation center where farmers who meet stringent quality standards are paid a premium for their beans. The name of the farmer and the location of their cacao trees are registered and can traced back from every bar of Ah Cacao chocolate!
The fresh beans are fermented in wooden boxes for about a week. This is a natural process where sugars from the pulp are consumed and the beans develop the deep chocolate flavor we love so much. During fermentation, the beans need to be moved around to ensure that each bean is fermented evenly. This is done by pouring the beans from one box to another and breaking up any clumps.
After fermentation, the beans are dried out in raised beds in vast greenhouses. The beans have to be moved continuously with wooden rakes for a week or two, to ensure that each bean is dried evenly. While raking, each individual bean is looked over and any that don't make the grade are discarded.
After drying the quality of the beans is verified by slicing samples of beans in half and inspecting their insides! Only the finest get turned into Ah Cacao chocolate.
The CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Roasting and winnowing
To further develop their chocolate flavor, the cacao beans are lightly roasted and the outer shell is removed. De-shelled beans are called "nibs" and have bitter nutty taste. They can be eaten as a healthy snack or used as condiment on just about anything! Buy a bag of cacao nibs here!
CLEAN, zero-emissions, SOLAR ENERGY
You can enjoy your Ah Cacao chocolate habit completely guilt free with the knowledge that not only is cacao natural and good for you, our chocolate is produced using clean, zero-emissions, solar energy, for a brighter future! (Pictured is a young Felix Finkbeiner, founder of Plant-for-the-Planet, visiting our factory)
The roasted and de-shelled beans are ground into a fine paste. Traditionally the maya people did this by hand using a "metate" shown in the picture. You can buy 100% pure cacao from Ah Cacao and use it to make your own chocolate creations.
Cacao paste is sweetened with sugar to make chocolate which is molded into chocolate bars in Ah Cacao's clean-energy solar-powered factory in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Cacao en polvo
Cacao paste is pressed and ground to make cacao powder for an easy and quick way to add delicious chocolate flavor to your drinks and desserts.
CHOCOLATE Drinks and Desserts
100% pure cacao is also used to make the fabulous chocolate drinks and desserts you love so much at Ah Cacao Chocolate Café, like our famous gluten-free chocolate brownies!