My grandparents were farmers. I used to walk through the cornfield to get to my grandparents house. Believe it or not, it was safer to walk through the field than on the roadway as there were large tractors and farm trucks that would drive fast on the roadway -- thus, my mom always encouraged the cornfield. However, it was always clear that we had to walk as straight as possible through the corn or we could potentially get lost. Luckily, corn grows in perfect rows. Thus, my sister and I often set out on our straight pathway to our grandparent's house. (Of course we also never walked through fields during harvest season -- one would not want to come face to face with a tractor!)
Cacao farms are not nearly as orderly, so one can't walk straight through them -- the cacao trees grow upward and outward over many years time. The funny looking football-sized cacao pods (the fruit) actually grow straight out of the trunk! I love visiting farms and seeing real cacao! This time I even had a chance to harvest some pods with the guys pictured here -- check out that large wood stick. The top of it has a sharp blade, so you can cut the cacao pod off of the tree. I successfully pulled down about 5 pods before being replaced by the ‘experts’ as my slow harvesting technique would take days.
You'll see that depending on the variety, beans grown in different colors and sizes. On the trees, there are green and red pods but most turn to a bright yellow or orange when they are ripe (you can see the piles on the ground of ripe beans.) The pod is split open so you can find the cacao beans inside. On these farms, the ideal tree would produce 60 cacao pods with about 35 beans inside per year. In some cases, you could see a 'great tree' which would produce well above that.
The best part of my visits to the cacao farm is definitely eating the fruit directly! The bean is surrounded by a white pulp, which tastes absolutely delicious... somewhere between a passion fruit, a coconut, a peach, and a kiwi although I definitely don’t believe there is a flavor to which I can exactly compare (thus I’ve listed 4 fruits! ;) ). This pulp is used during the fermentation process, so individuals don’t generally see the white fruit on its own. On this tour, I also saw the new fermenting and drying system of this company where they are able to take large amounts of beans and move the process faster and more efficiently.
If you have the chance to visit a cacao farm, I highly encourage it! This is the true source. Just to recap = cacao trees grow cacao pods which have cacao beans inside which are fermented, dried, roasted and then broken into smaller pieces to make sweetriot cacao! Hmmmmmm.