The fermentation of cocoa beans is a crucial step in unlocking the full flavour potential of chocolate.
Traditionally, in Ghana cocoa beans have been fermented in piles or boxes covered with banana leaves, requiring manual turning by farmers over several days.
However, whilst I was visiting CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana ) in Taffo I witnessed a new method, being developed, tray fermentation offering a more efficient and consistent approach.
In tray fermentation, cocoa beans are placed into wooden trays with bamboo bases, stacked on top of each other. These trays are precisely 4 inches (10cm) tall, allowing for even air circulation throughout the beans.
Unlike traditional methods, tray fermentation eliminates the need for manual turning, as the fermentation process activates uniformly to a depth of 4 inches.
The benefits of tray fermentation are significant. Not only does it reduce the labour intensity for farmers, but it also results in a wider range of flavour nuances in the final chocolate product. By fermenting the beans uniformly, tray fermentation elevates chocolate made from Forastero beans to the level of noble cocoa beans, such as Criollo or Trinitario. This advancement marks a quantum leap in chocolate production, offering enhanced flavour profiles and greater consistency.
In summary, tray fermentation represents a revolutionary approach to cocoa bean fermentation, providing improved flavour development and efficiency for chocolate producers. Its adoption has the potential to transform the industry and deliver superior chocolate experiences to consumers worldwide.