I always knew Australia was the lucky country and my recent trip on a cocoa tour of Ghana proves it.
I was one of 45 blessed industry professionals to be invited on a 6 day tour of Ghana and more importantly the cocoa plantations. Through competitions and awards, F.Mayer Imports invited fortunate Cacao Barry and Callebaut customers to immerse themselves in the world of chocolate from the ground up.
Cocoa has sustained Ghana since Tetteh Quarshie, who first brought it from Fernando Po in Equatorial Guinea at around 1879. Cocoa secured Ghana’s future after it became an independent nation in 1957, by providing the bulk of the funds needed for its development.
The cultivation of cocoa still provides a living for millions in rural areas of Ghana, including those employed in the provision of ancillary services that support the industry, such as warehousing and the transport sector.
Ghana provides 24% of the world’s supply of cocoa, the second biggest supplier in the world after Ivory Coast, and is supplied by thousands of individual farms. Ghana grew over a million tons of cocoa in the last financial year. The average number a cocoa beans grown and processed per acre per year for a farm in Ghana is 350-400kg of beans. The cocoa price is set by the Ghana cocoa board in conjunction with the government each year, and is reviewed accordingly. The current pricing will give a farmer $106 US dollars per 64kg sack of beans.
Cocoa is the second most labour intensive agricultural product after vanilla. It takes 5 to 8 months for a cocoa pod to grow from the pollinated flower to a ripe cocoa pod. On cultivated cocoa plantations, only 3 out of 1000 flowers are pollinated, fertilized and grow into fruit. Wild cocoa has a much higher rate of 15 out of 1000 flowers producing fruit. Pods grow directly off the trunk or heavy branches of the tree. The pods are green while maturing and turns yellow, orange, red and purple when ripe. Ghana has created its own hybrid of cocoa, a combination of the robust Forastero and trinitario, which they have found is best suited to the environment, pests and diseases in Ghana.
The pod itself has between 30 – 50 individual cocoa beans inside, dependant on the size of the pod. The beans are removed from the pod and fermented in either wooden crates or wrapped in banana leaves for up to seven days. This will break down the fruit membrane on the outside of the bean and develop the flavour. The beans are then dried naturally in the sun in a thin layer and raked over at regular intervals to ensure they dry evenly and separate any joined beans. Once dried the beans can only hold a maximum of 7.5% moisture before being packaged. 1kg of dried cocoa beans produces 800g of couverture with 80% cocoa.
Our tour was an amazing opportunity for skilled professionals to gain an insight into the culture and cocoa industry of Ghana. I now have a true appreciation of the labour and love involved in producing Callebaut and Cacao Barry couverture from the ground up. Cocoa is a fragile commodity impacted by so many outside influences; I like to think I give chocolate the affection it deserves.
A big thank you to Gary Willis who organised the whole trip, F. Mayer Imports and Callebaut and Cacao Barry chocolate. At the end of this year, Kirsten will be launching brand new ‘bean to bar’ chocolate classes. These ongoing classes are exclusive to Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School.