The ripening period of cacao generally occurs at two seasons of the
year, but in these islands the most abundant crop is obtained at about the
commencement of the dry season, and the fruits continue to ripen for
two months or longer. The time of its approaching maturity is easily
recognized by the tyro by the unmistakable aroma of chocolate that pervades
the orchard at that period, and by some of the pods turning reddish
or yellow according to the variety.
The pods are attached by a very short stalk to the trunk of the tree, and
those within reach of the hand are carefully cut with shears. Those
higher up are most safely removed with an extension American tree
pruner. A West Indian hook knife with a cutting edge above and below
and mounted on a bamboo pole. If kept with the edges very sharp, does
excellently well, but should only be intrusted to the most careful workmen.
There is hardly a conceivable contingency to warrant the climbing of a
cacao tree. If it should occur, the person climbing should go barefooted.
As soon as the fruit, or so much of it as is well ripened, has been gathered,
it is thrown into heaps and should be opened within twenty-four hours.
The opening is done in a variety of ways, but the practice followed in
Surinam would be an excellent one here if experienced labor was not at
command. There, with a heavy knife or cutlass (bolo), they cut off the
base or stem end of the fruit and thereby expose the column to which the
seeds are attached, and then women and children, who free most of the
seeds, are able to draw out the entire seed mass intact. It is exceedingly
important that the seeds are not wounded, and for that reason it is inexpedient
to intrust the more expeditious method of halving the fruit with
a sharp knife to any but experienced workmen.
The process of curing that I have seen followed in these Islands is simplicity
itself. Two jars half filled with water are provided for the cleaners,
and as the seeds are detached from the pulp they are sorted and
graded on the spot. Only those of large, uniform size, well formed and
thoroughly ripe, being thrown into one ; deformed, small, and imperfectly
matured seeds going to the other.
In these jars the seeds are allowed to stand in their own juice for a day, then they are taken out, washed in fresh water, dried in the sun from two to four days, according to the weather, and the process from the Filipino standpoint is complete.
Much of the product thus obtained is singularly free from bitterness
and of such excellent quality as to be salable at unusually high prices,
and at the same time in such good demand that it is with some hesitancy
that the process of fermentation is recommended for general use.
But it is also equally certain that localities in these Islands will be
planted to cacao where all the conditions that help to turn out an unrivaled natural product are by no means assured.
For such places, where the rank-growing, more coarse-flavored, and bitter-fruited Forastero may produce exceptionally good crops, it will become incumbent on the planter to adopt some of the many methods of fermentation, whereby he can correct the crudeness of the untreated bean and receive a remunerative price for the "processed” or ameliorated product.
Undoubtedly the Strickland method, or some modification of it, is
the best, and is now in general use on all considerable estates where the
harvest is 200 piculs or upward per annum, and its use probably assures
a more uniform product than any of the ruder processes in common use
by small proprietors.
But it must not be forgotten that the present planters in the Philippines
are all small proprietors, and that until such time as the maturing
of large plantations calls for the more elaborate apprratus of the Strickland pattern, some practice whereby the inferior crude bean may be economically and quickly converted into a marketable product can not be
avoided. As simple and efficacious as any is that largely pursued in some
parts of Venezuela, where is produced the famous Caracas cacao.
The beans and pulp are thrown into wooden vats that are pierced with
holes sufficient to permit of the escape of the juice, for which twenty-four hours suffices. The vat is then exposed to the sun for five or six hours, and the beans, while still hot, are taken out, thrown into large heaps,. And covered with blankets.
The next day they are returned to the box, subjected to a strong sun
heat and again returned to the heap. This operation is repeated for sevral
days, until the beans, by their bright chocolate color and suppleness,
indicate that they are cured. If, during the period of fermentation, rain
is threatened or occurs, the beans are shoveled, still hot, into bags and retained there until they can once more be exposed to the sun. Before the
final bagging they are carefully hand rubbed in order to remove the adherent gums and fibrous matters that did not pass off in the primary
In Ceylon, immediately after the beans have been fermented they are
washed, and the universally high prices obtained by the Ceylon planters
make it desirable to reproduce here a brief resume of their method. The
fermentation is carried on under sheds, and the beans are heaped up in
60 cm. to 1 meter in thickness apon a platform of parallel joists
arranged to permit of the escape of the juices. This platform is elevated
from the ground and the whole heap is covered with sacks or matting.
The fermentation takes from five to seven days, according to the heat of the atmosphere and the size of the heap, and whenever the temperature
rises above 40° the mass is carefully turned over with wooden shovels.
Immediately after the fermentation is completed the Ceylon planter
passes the mass through repeated washings, and nothing remains but to
dry the seed. This in Ceylon is very extensively done, in dryers of different kinds, some patterned after the American fruit dryer, some in
slowly rotating cylinders through the axis of which a powerful blast of
hot air is driven.
The process of washing unquestionably diminishes somewhat the
weight of the cured bean; for that reason the practice is not generally
followed in other countries, but in the case of the Ceylon product it is;
one of the contributing factors to the high prices obtained.
Source: S.LYON,IN CHARGE OF SEED AND PLANT INTRODUCTION. OF PUBLIC PRINTING 1902.WILLIAM S. LYON