Updated: Apr 12, 2019
One of my favorite visits to the cacao groves was in Cote d’Ivoire. I teamed up with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and set out to visit cacao farmers in the southern region of the Ivory Coast. About a three hour drive from Abidjan, we arrived at a simple but well organized processing facility where the sweet juicy cacao beans are fermented under banana leaves before being dried on large wooden drying floors with filtered sunlight above. This is necessary in order to reduce the moisture content of the fermented beans from about 60% to about 7.5%.
Before the end of our visit we decided to wander through the crop to check out the varying levels of ripeness of the Theobroma shade-loving cacao trees. This genus originated in South America millions of years ago and was drunk by Maya traders as early as 400 B.C.
Chocolate grows best in the tropical zone, 10 degrees north and south of the equator, so it was nice and humid under the canopy of trees. Although it was a mild 85 degrees farenheit, it was surprisingly hot and stuffy. I tried to ignore the stars I was seeing through the sweat that was rolling down my forehead and clouding my vision. I was too preoccupied with keeping my camera cool to notice that I was the one that was overheating. I don’t know if it was because I had skipped breakfast or the heat itself that was getting to me, but soon I had to admit defeat. Thankfully my colleagues quickly retrieved a warm Coca cola from the car and kindly fanned me with a banana leaf. They saved my life! Ok, maybe not my life but definitely the day. Another great day in the field.