The single most critical element of the entire chocolate-making process is the fermentation and drying of the cacao beans once they are harvested—known as the “post-harvest” process. Together with our post-harvest master Servio Pachard, we designed and built our own small-scale fermentation and drying installation in the middle of his farm, located downriver from the valley of Piedra de Plata.
The design for our installation was drawn from a synthesis of the very best post-harvest techniques that we’ve seen in Ecuador and other parts of the world, but on a much more intimate scale and with a few of our own proprietary enhancements.
Perhaps the most beloved feature of our post-harvest operation is the beauty that surrounds it. It is circled by cacao and the many other tropical fruit trees that populate Servio’s charismatic farm, all under the watchful eye of his trademark tree houses built in the canopy of massive mango trees.
Once harvested, our cacao beans are placed in Spanish Elm wood fermentation boxes for a period of five to seven days, depending on harvest characteristics. The fermentation process breaks down unwanted tannins and other polyphenols within the beans, thus muting the bitterness and releasing the finer, more subtle flavors. The fermented beans are then very gradually dried by sun and fresh air in an installation that resembles a small greenhouse.