We visited Cacao Fiji’s cocoa farm in Dreketi on the island of Vanua Levu in October 2019. I learned a lot, and our guide generously gave us a few cocoa pods to take home.
This was the start of a fun experiment: making raw cocoa powder.
It’s a time-intensive process: It takes about two weeks.
The first step is fermentation. I removed the slimy seeds from the pods, placed them in a strainer, and let the seeds sit for a week.
It’s summer here in Fiji, and the air is thick with humidity, so mold began to grow on the seeds, but I was able to keep the mold in check by mixing the seeds in the strainer by hand every morning.
I also checked the seeds daily for smell. The smell will be a bit of sweet and a bit of funk as they ferment.
The slime should be practically gone by the end of fermentation, and the sweet/funk smell should become subtle.
After fermentation, I dried the seeds, which look like beans at that point, for another week.
I let them sit in a shallow cardboard box and shook the box side to side every day for circulation. You can dry the beans in the sun, but I kept them inside to prevent bug issues.
During the drying process, a hint of that classic chocolate smell starts to emerge.
Once the beans were dried, I placed them in a closed container and stored in the pantry.
When I was ready to roast, I preheated the oven to 250 deg F, and when the temperature was right, I cooked the beans for about 30 min. The smell of chocolate emanated from oven when the roasting was almost done. I checked the beans a few times to make sure they were not over-roasting.
After roasting, I let them cool, then sampled a couple beans. They were amazing–pure, raw cocoa smells and tastes incredibly rich, earthy, bold and slightly sweet.
I used a coffee-bean grinder to blitz the roasted cocoa beans into powder form. The smell was so wonderful, I kept wanting to inhale it.
My yield was about 2 cups–plenty of raw cocoa powder for various uses (shakes, desserts).
Bonus: Raw cocoa has a reputation for being good for your health. It’s got antioxidants and is beneficial for your heart, so munch on roasted cocoa beans if you want to get that pure, raw cocoa without the sugar.