I was in holiday in Queensland when I decided to go on a Farm Visit to the Daintree Estates, which is up near Mosman Gorge. The company “Sweet Tours”
arrange farm tours and visits. Cocoa is a new crop to Australia and one which seems to be doing well in the climate of Northern Queensland….I was in holiday in Queensland when I decided to go on a Farm Visit to the Daintree Estates, which is up near Mosman Gorge. The company “Sweet Tours”
arrange farm tours and visits.
Cocoa is a new crop to Australia and one which seems to be doing well in the climate of Northern Queensland. Cocoa only grows in a hot and wet climate, which is basically limited 20° north and south of the equator. Within this narrow band of latitude, cocoa growing spread from its original source in the Americas to West Africa and South East Asia, where most commercial crops are grown and processed today. Far North Queensland’s climate is also close to ideal, but a range of other issues held back cocoa-growing for many years. These included the untested performance of hybrid plants in relation to yield and pest resistance, plus high labour costs compared to those of developing countries.
In the last 10 to 20 years, pioneering work and insightful research on the part of Daintree Cocoa owners, CSIRO researchers and government experts overcame these issues using innovative farming and processing approaches.
The result is what you see today; a small, thriving cocoa industry that is well established in Far North Queensland and produces fabulous single-origin, estate-origin and (from one estate) organically-certified chocolate. The cocoa is grown in pods on the farm but requires a lot of processing before it can be used as the cocoa powder that is part of baking and hot chocolates. Here are the steps that I learnt about at the farm:
1) Pod splitting
The cocoa beans are inside the pod. Using a large machete the pod is split and the beans extracted
You can have non-fermented cocoa, but this doesn’t have the same “chocolatey flavour” as fermented cocoa. To ferment the cocoa beans farmers cover the cocoa beans in banana leaves and leave for 2-8 days.
Next, the fermented beans are dried
Roasting does two important things to the bean:
i. remove pathogens and bugs such as e-coli, making the beans safe for humans to eat
ii. improve and alter the taste.
5) Cracking and Winnowing
Cocoa beans are cracked into smaller pieces called nibs, and the husks blown away and discarded. Cocoa nibs are then ready for refining or can be eaten as they are as a healthy and nutritious whole food or ground down into fine cocoa powder.