Before our dried cocoa beans can go anywhere they need to be graded, which actually begins while they are still on the drying trays. Preliminary grading involves removing little bits of leaves or twigs that may have found they way into the beans as well as removing tiny, under developed beans and any remaining pieces of dried pulp.
One of the main dangers for cocoa at this stage can be mould, which will grow on beans that haven’t been dried properly. To avoid this we have a moisture meter (the only one on the island) so we can completely control the drying process, neither under nor over drying the cocoa. Ideally, the beans should have a moisture content of 6.5%.
The final step in grading is the cut test – a process by which we slice in half 50 beans and examine the colour of the beans to determine that they are well fermented and dried and there has been no any insect or pest invasion. We do 13 cut tests to every tonne of cocoa. When they pass, they’re packed into jute sacks and shipped across the Atlantic to be turned into chocolate.
Next year we begin work on our next exciting project in Saint Lucia, the building of a small batch chocolate factory. This will allows us to turn industry practice on hits head by making chocolate in the cocoa growing region itself – using our own Saint Lucian cocoa, local ingredients and labour.