How Are Cocoa Beans Processed After Harvest?

One can only talk about good chocolate when you start with discussing origin of the fruit, and its varieties and how the cocoa beans are processed.

A good chocolate maker, like any maker of good wine or coffee, pays attention to the raw beans being used to produce chocolate. More than 80% of the world’s chocolate comes from low quality bulk beans of the  forastero variety. Craft chocolate makers use mostly fine, and sometimes rare bean varieties to make some of the amazing chocolate we feature in our boxes.

Fresh Cocoa Pods for Harvest

There are two main post-harvest processes done on cacao farms: fermentation and drying. After cacao is harvested, the pods are taken to a central area to be fermented. This must begin quickly, as the seeds immediately begin to germinate once they’re cut off from the tree. In the fermentation area, pods are cracked open and their seeds removed. The hard shell & soft spine holding the seeds in place is discarded and often turned into compost for the farm.

Kicking Off the Fermentation Process

The pulp-coated seeds are placed into a fermentation box, traditionally lined with banana leaves. They’re left to ferment for 3-7 days depending on cacao type.

The seeds are often called cacao beans at this stage, and some farmers sort cacao beans by size or pod color before fermenting. During fermentation, the sugars in the pulp surrounding the seeds are consumed by local yeast and bacteria, changing the composition of the beans.

Temperatures inside fermentation boxes can reach 50 degrees Celsius; any higher and it can damage the beans, but any lower and fermentation won’t complete.

Fermentation is crucial to chocolate making, as it’s the point at which beans develop the flavor precursors typically associated with cocoa. These flavors are enhanced during roasting, but fermentation lays the foundation. Beans are usually turned multiple times during fermentation, to ensure that all cacao is equally fermented, and the temperature doesn’t rise too high too quickly.

On the other hand, some farmers don’t ferment their beans at all, choosing to immediately dry them in the sun. This is a problem because of fermentation’s crucial role in flavor development. Those unfermented beans will lack a complex and chocolatey flavor at later steps of chocolate making, as well as often being overly bitter and astringent.

Drying In Cocoa Processing

Drying is the next step in cocoa processing after harvest. Once farmers have tested beans from all parts of the batch and ensured that they’re properly fermented, the beans are poured onto tarps to be dried.

The beans must be spread in very thin layers, ideally in the sun, to ensure that fermentation stops immediately. If beans stay in clumps, they may continue to ferment in the sun, ruining the flavor.

Cacao dries in the sun for several days, pulled under shelter during rain storms and other adverse weather. If cacao dries too quickly, then it may develop a sour flavor due to trapped acids which would have otherwise escaped during the drying process.

But if cacao dries too slowly then it may become moldy or begin to develop other off flavors. Once the moisture level of the beans hovers around 7%, the beans are put into bags and prepared for either storage or shipment.

After post-harvest processing, cocoa will most likely either be processed into cocoa butter & cocoa powder, or become chocolate.

Shop Our Popular Gifts

1 of 5
  • Award Winning Chocolate Makers

    Bar & Cocoa is the premier purveyor of exceptional craft chocolates from award winning chocolate makers. We hand pick exceptional makers to feature.

  • Ethically Sourced

    Ethics is a key ingredient to the world’s best chocolate. Our selection supports a supply chain that is more transparent than fair trade and big-brand chocolate — and tastier!

  • Fine & Rare Origins

    The chocolate we offer is crafted from fine quality cacao. You can taste the uniqueness and complexity of different cacao origins with nuanced flavors, unlike mass-produced chocolate.


What makes Bar & Cocoa different?

At Bar & Cocoa, we're not just another chocolate shop; we're a chocolate experience. We meticulously curate a selection of the finest chocolates from artisanal makers around the globe. Our focus is on quality, ethical sourcing, and sustainability. We go the extra mile to educate our customers about the complexities of cacao cultivation and chocolate making through detailed product descriptions, flavor profiles, and origin stories. When you shop with us, you're not just indulging in a treat; you're becoming part of a community that values the art and science of chocolate making.

What is bean to bar chocolate?

Bean to bar chocolate is chocolate that is made from scratch by the same producer, starting from the raw cacao beans and ending with the finished chocolate bars and treats. This process allows the chocolate maker to control every aspect of the chocolate making, such as roasting, grinding, conching, tempering, and molding. Bean to bar chocolate is often more flavorful, nuanced, and ethical than mass-produced chocolate. It reflects the artistry and craftsmanship of the maker and the quality and origin of the cacao.

How do you source your chocolate? Is it ethical and sustainable?

We source our chocolate from award winning craft makers who use high-quality cacao beans and go beyond fair trade. We work with over 50 fine chocolate makers from around the world who share our values and passion for real chocolate. Some of the countries we source our chocolate from include Peru, Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua,, Philippines, India, and many more. We are always on the lookout for new and exciting origins and makers to add to our collection.

Do you have vegan, or keto-friendly or soy free chocolate?

Yes, we do! We have a variety of chocolate options that cater to different dietary preferences and needs. You can browse our collections of organic chocolate, vegan chocolate, keto-friendly chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, dairy-free chocolate, gluten-free chocolate, soy-free chocolate, nut-free chocolate, and more on our website. We also provide detailed information on each product page about the ingredients and allergens of each product.

How do you pick your chocolate makers?

When it comes to selecting our chocolate offerings, we're basically the chocolate sommeliers you never knew you needed. Our process starts with rigorous research and tastings. Yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. We scour the globe for artisanal and craft chocolate makers who share our commitment to quality, ethical sourcing, and innovation in flavor.

We scrutinize everything from cacao origin to production methods and flavor profiles. Only the best of the best make it into our curated collection, offering you a world-class chocolate experience in every bite. Each bar has a story, a unique flavor profile, and the power to transport you to a different part of the globe. We're not just selling chocolate; we're offering an edible journey.