You’ve Loved Chocolate Forever, But Do You Know How It’s Grown?

June 4, 2023
By: Shay Elder

Chocolate is a beloved treat enjoyed by millions of people around the world and it has a special place in our hearts and the leaves of that plant are incorporated into many of our lighting designs. As a food it’s hard to resist the smooth, rich, and creamy taste of chocolate, whether it’s in a bar, a truffle, or a cake. But have you ever wondered where chocolate comes from and how it’s grown? In the Philippines, chocolate is grown in a unique and fascinating way that makes it a truly awe-inspiring crop.

The Philippines is home to a variety of cocoa plants, which produce the beans that are used to make chocolate. The cocoa tree is a small evergreen tree that grows in tropical regions, and it’s an important part of the ecosystem in the Philippines. In fact, the country has a long history of growing cocoa , dating back to the Spanish colonial period.

1. Planting In Just the Right Spot

A lazy cow lounges on a chocolate farm in the Philippines

A lazy cow lounges on a chocolate farm in the Philippines

The process of growing chocolate in the Philippines starts with planting the cocoa trees. These trees are often grown in shaded areas, such as under coconut trees or other larger trees, to protect them from direct sunlight. This also helps to promote the growth of other plants and creates a more diverse ecosystem.

Once the cocoa trees are planted, it takes about three to four years for them to start producing fruit. The cocoa pods grow directly from the trunk or branches of the tree, with each pod containing anywhere from 20 to 40 cocoa beans. Cocoa pods are harvested twice a year and it takes a whopping 500 beans to create just one pound of delicious chocolate!

2. Harvesting Cocoa Pods

Skilled workers carefully cut the pods from the tree, all while ensuring that the surrounding branches and other pods remain undamaged. Once the pods are carefully collected, they are opened to reveal the coveted cocoa beans inside. But that’s not all – the beans are also surrounded by a delicious white pulp that’s so sweet and juicy, it’s often enjoyed as a quick snack or used to make thirst-quenching drinks. Now that’s a sweet deal!

3. Drying and Preparing the Pods for the Next Steps

Chocolate pods hand from a cocoa tree.

Chocolate pods hand from a cocoa tree.

After the beans are removed from the pods, they are fermented and dried. Fermentation plays a crucial role in creating your favorite treat. When cocoa beans are carefully placed in piles or containers and covered with banana leaves or other materials, magic happens. Over the course of two to seven days, fermentation takes place, and the flavor of the beans develops into something truly delicious. Without this crucial step, the chocolate we all know and love wouldn’t be nearly as tasty.

After an intensive fermentation process, the beans are basked in the sun to dry out. It may take a few days, but that’s okay because constant stirring guarantees an evenly roasted batch. Once the beans are dry, it’s time to roast them to perfection. This step truly brings out the flavors and scents that make chocolate so irresistible!

4. Roasting to Create the Best Flavor Possible

After a careful roasting process, cocoa beans are crushed and ground into a mouth-watering paste. From there, chocolatiers mix in a variety of other ingredients – like sugar and vanilla – to create the bars and bites we all know and love. With so many scrumptious options to choose from, including silky smooth milk chocolate and rich, delectable dark chocolate, there’s a flavor to satisfy every sweet tooth out there.

The sun sets on a chocolate farm in the Philippines.

The sun sets on a chocolate farm in the Philippines.

The chocolate scene in the Philippines is heating up with a passion for showcasing the one-of-a-kind flavors found in local cocoa. Thanks to dedicated small-scale farmers and producers, there’s a new wave of single-origin chocolates that highlights the unique terroir of the region. Think of it like a fine wine or a premium coffee, but in indulgent chocolate form!

The process of growing chocolate in the Philippines is a fascinating and complex one that requires skill, patience, and dedication. Starting with the careful harvesting of cocoa pods in the lush fields of the Philippines, skilled farmers painstakingly ferment and roast the beans to create the rich flavor we all know and love. It takes a whole lot of skill, patience, and dedication to produce that perfect piece of chocolate. So, the next time you indulge, take a moment to appreciate the expert craftsmanship and hard work that goes into each and every bite.

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