There is a commonality in terms of enzyme systems present and raw material composition among many commercially important plants. This is reflected by the relative ubiquity of a number of metabolic pathways as exemplified by the terpenoid and
phenylpropanoid complexes with their associated
enzymes and substrates [ 1].
A similar situation prevails for processing where
many similar operations are conducted. There
are however some differences in treatment details
between different raw materials; these being specific
for selected starting materials. Transfer of technologies from one raw material to another presents
potential routes for novelty in the quality and flavor
of final products. This was exemplified by comparison of the processing of tea leaves and the curing of
vanilla beans [ 2]. Similarities and differences exist
between cocoa and vanilla bean processing and their
final flavor compositions. This paper examines these
two raw materials and considers opportunities in
vanilla bean curing based on a knowledge of cocoa
Cocoa Beans and Cocoa Bean Processing
There are three major genotypes of cocoa
(Theobroma cacao) namely:
• Forestero originating from the Amazon basin and
representing ca.70% of world production. Major
growing areas are West Africa, South America
and Asia; these origins produce beans with the
strongest flavor. The smooth yellow pods contain
pale purple beans.
• Criollo: a native of Central America accounting for 5-10% of global production. Grown in
Indonesia and Central and South America, Criollo
has a mild or weak chocolate flavor. Criollo trees
produce softer red pods containing 20-30 white
ivory or very pale purple beans.
• Trinitario: a cultivated hybrid of Forestero
and Criollo. The crop is grown mainly in the
Carribean, but also in the Cameroons and Papua,
New Guinea. The pods contain 30 or more beans
of variable color, though white beans are rare.
Cocoa trees begin to bear fruit when they are
three to four years old, where the pods grow out
of the trunk and main branches. Only a small
proportion of the flowers develop into fruit over a
maturation period of about five months. Each tree
yields 20-30 pods per year. It takes the whole year’s
crop from one tree to make 450gm of chocolate. The
cocoa tree bears two harvests of cocoa pods per year.
Around 20cm in length and 500gm in weight, the
pods ripen to a color characteristic of the genotype.
Within each pod there are 20-40 colored, 2cm long,
cocoa beans covered in a sweet white pulp.
The harvesting of cocoa pods is very labor intensive. Ripe pods are gathered every few weeks during
the peak season. The collected pods are split open
by hand, resulting in beans covered in a sweet white
pulp, which are then removed for the fermentation
and drying processes. These processes prepare the
beans for market and represent the first stage in the
development of chocolate flavor [ 3].