Making Dark Chocolate at Home from Donated Cacao Pods

Mother cacao Tree doing very well
Growing right out of the tree  trunk
Slightly more ripe yellow drupes (aka pods)

Fruit of the Gods: Theobroma cacao
This is the mother tree for all of our current chocolate making purposes. This tree is at least 15 years old. Probably a Forastero cultivar or hybrid. We would love to get our hands on a Criollo variety cacao tree, which is known to be one of the original cacao trees offering high quality fruit and beans ultimately leading to a better tasting end product, but it's not all in the genes. Overall tree care, fermentation process, drying and roasting will all significantly affect the taste of your chocolate product.
Gives you an idea of the size pods we received.

Two cacao pods from the same tree. One ripe and one over-ripe

Individual beans after being separated from their womb-like pod

Over-ripe pod with beans germinating inside
The beans in the dark brown pod were useless as far as making chocolate is concerned, but since they had a head start by being germinated already we just planted them in a mix of well draining soil mixed with mushroom derived compost.

The yellow pod gave us fresh beans with sweet and slightly sour pulp. Very similar taste to the limoncillo (aka Melicoccus bijugatus, Spanish Lime/genip/mamoncillo/guinepa). Most of the pulp was left intact since it is necessary for the fermentation process. After being fermented for three days indoors unlike the typical outdoor fermentation where it is placed between Banana leaves or simply stacked amongst each other. After fermentation we completed the drying stage naturally in open air under the sun then roasted the beans in order to separate the outer shell from the nibs and also to complete the drying and get just the right chocolatey, nutty flavor. Then during the processing you can add other ingredients such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. This is where we will be experimenting with several pods in order to see what taste profiles we end up with. The first batch came out okay, but the next few batches will get spiced up a bit. Here are some more pictures of the original pod and our end result, which was powder cacao aka cocoa.

Succulent moist pulp

Now that's ripe!

Here are the goodies. Beans are said to start fermenting as soon as they're exposed to oxygen.

Some breathing and drainage holes for disintegrating pulp.

Keeping the beans warm and cozy along with trusty thermometer line
After three days fermenting. Already smells like alcohol.

After drying in the sun for two days. Now it really smells like alcohol.

These are the beans after roasting and removing the shells.
Start with some sugar in a coffee blade grinder. Going for a 70/30 dark chocolate

After adding the cacao beans we get a nice cocoa powder.