The Process: From Tree To Cup

The Process: From Tree To Cup

You may be surprised to discover all that is ACTUALLY involved in making ceremonial drinking cacao available to the world. Here's a step-by-step break down of our tree-to-cup process.

1. Growing: all cacao comes from cacao trees (Theobroma cacao). Cacao trees take up to 5 years to mature. Once mature, cacao trees grow thousands of flowers every year. However, only a small percentage (as low as 1%) produce a cacao pod. Each football sized pod takes nearly 6 months to ripen and contains about 30-40 almond-shaped seeds surrounded by a sweet, juicy pulp.

2. Harvesting: Once the cacao pods have ripened, they are cut down from the trees. This is no easy task given that cacao trees can reach heights of nearly 40ft. The pods are then split in half with a machete or wooden club and the pulp removed by hand. Though cacao can be harvested nearly year round, there are two main harvesting times each year, which varies depending on the type of cacao strain you are working with.

(photo credit: Sumaq Foods)

3. Fermentation: the cacao bean, still inside its pulp, must be fermented anywhere from 1-4 days. Typically taking place in a wooden fermentation box, this process allows the cacao bean to shed its pulp and undergo specific chemical changes that allow it to obtain its characteristic aroma and flavor.

(photo credit: Sumaq Foods)

4. Drying: after fermentation the cacao beans are then laid out to dry in a designated drying center. Weather permitting, the beans will reduce their moisture content from about 60% to 7.5% over the course of one week. Once dried, the cacao beans can be stored for 4-5 years.

(photo credit: Sumaq Foods)

5. Shipping: the beans are then packed, packaged, and shipped to their end destination. Depending on their country of origin, this process can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks.

(photo credit: Sumaq Foods)

6. Roasting & Winnowing: once at their final destination, the beans can then begin to be processed. Compared to coffee beans, cacao beans are roasted at much lower temperatures and for much shorter periods of time. This process must be monitored very closely as over-roasting is common and can easily destroy the flavor profile of the bean. After roasting, the beans are then cooled and "winnowed." Winnowing is a technical term for the process of removing the husks (or shells) from the bean.

7. Grinding: the remaining cacao beans are then stone ground with a traditional stone grinder into what's known as a 'cacao paste'. At this point, panela is added to the cacao causing the paste to thicken and take on a course consistency, like the one you see in each scoop of KAKAO. Other ingredients like vanilla and chile spices can be ground along with and at the same time as the cacao.

8. Drying & Food Processing: The dry paste is then chopped up and put briefly through a food processor, so that you don't have to chop it at home! Sometimes, if exposed to summer temperatures, the paste can melt back together again. If this happens with your KAKAO, simply chop it up with a large knife and/or run through a food processor. You can use a kitchen scale to weigh out your daily dose of KAKAO.

9. Packaging and Shipping: Each order received is packed and shipped by hand, meaning it's sent away with love to your doorstep.

At this point, if you hadn't already, we hope that you have a more profound understanding of all that is required to get cacao out of the forest and into your cup. We approach each cup of KAKAO with absolute gratitude, respect, and reverence, not only for the divine plant wisdom that lies within, but also for all the time, energy, and love (from all the people involved) that goes into making this beautiful plant medicine available to the world.

Our invitation to you is that you invite this same reverence into your heart as you participate in your own daily ceremony. Cheers!

"Indigenous mythology recounts how whenever the balance between humans and nature becomes threatened, cacao leaves the rainforest to open people's hearts and return the planet to harmony."


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