Cocoa bean

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Cocoa beans are the almond-shaped seeds inside the fruit of the cacao tree, which is called a pod. As we’ll see, it’s an essential raw ingredient in the chocolate production chain.

Where do cocoa beans come from?

Cocoa pods grow on cacao trees (Theobroma cacao). This small tree of Mexican origin blossoms all year round. Its flowers are white and pink, but only some will produce fruit – about 1 out of every 500, in fact.

Theobroma cacao grows pods on both its branches and trunk. Growers have to be very careful not to damage the cacao tree when harvesting them. Because it’s such a delicate task, pods are picked by hand.


Cocoa beans’ composition

Each bean is made of about 50% of a fat called cocoa butter. The beans are 20% protein and also contain water, as well as a large amount of nutrients such as theobromine and vitamins. The beans also contain starch and other minerals.

Extracting the beans

Each pod contains 16 to 60 cocoa beans. You have to extract the fruit’s contents to get at its beans, in a process known as de-seeding.

When fresh, beans look like seeds covered in a white, sticky pulp called mucilage. They can be eaten as they are. However, if we want to store them for later use, we have to ferment and then dry them. We can also roast them.

Fève écabossage

How to use cocoa beans

Cocoa beans are the starting point for all chocolate production. You can use the beans to make you own dark or milk chocolate bars. What’s more, if you love powerful, sophisticated bitter flavors, you can eat cocoa beans raw like you would a nut.

They retain all their nutrients this way, as they are uncooked and unprocessed. Raw beans are packed with health benefits, as we will see shortly. However, do bear in mind that these beans are very bitter and can’t be used as a substitute for dark chocolate.

Once roasted to help them develop all their cocoa flavors, the cocoa beans are extracted from their shell and ground into fine pieces, or nibs.

Professionals are using cocoa nibs more and more in their recipes. They give desserts a unique texture. They also have a very intense cocoa flavor. Their bitter notes are much sought-after for the unique taste they provide. They are ideal for flavoring recipes and adding taste and texture. Nibs work wonderfully in cakes, ganaches, ice creams and even chocolate bars.

Where do Valrhona’s cocoa beans come from?

We have a careful ethical process for selecting our partner cocoa producers. The cocoa beans we use to make our chocolate come from the tropical forests and rainforests of Central and South America and Africa.

The close links we have forged with our partners enable us to guarantee each of our cocoa bean’s quality and traceability.

All our cocoa beans can be traced back to their producer. Traceability enables Valrhona to check its cocoa’s origin and implement action that will have a positive impact on the world of cocoa.
We now source our beans from our producers in 16 different countries, and 90% of our purchases are made through partnerships contracted for at least 3 years.

Fèves cacao

To sum up

Cocoa beans are the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. They are the key ingredient for chocolate bonbons, confectionery and beverages. The beans are harvested, fermented, dried and finally roasted to give them depth and develop all their cocoa aromas.

Cocoa paste (also known as cocoa liquor) is made from the beans, and this can then be separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.