Cocoa and Chocolate - Their History from Plantation to Consumer
by Arthur W. Knapp
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Their History from Plantation to Consumer


ARTHUR W. KNAPP B. Sc. (B'ham.), F.I.C., B. Sc. (Lond.) Member of the Society of Public Analysts; Member of the Society of Chemical Industry; Fellow of the Institute of Hygiene. Research Chemist to Messrs. Cadbury Bros., Ltd.



Although there are several excellent scientific works dealing in a detailed manner with the cacao bean and its products from the various view points of the technician, there is no comprehensive modern work written for the general reader. Until that appears, I offer this little book, which attempts to cover lightly but accurately the whole ground, including the history of cacao, its cultivation and manufacture. This is a small book in which to treat of so large a subject, and to avoid prolixity I have had to generalise. This is a dangerous practice, for what is gained in brevity is too often lost in accuracy: brevity may be always the soul of wit, it is rarely the body of truth. The expert will find that I have considered him in that I have given attention to recent developments, and if I have talked of the methods peculiar to one place as though they applied to the whole world, I ask him to consider me by supplying the inevitable variations and exceptions himself.

The book, though short, has taken me a long time to write, having been written in the brief breathing spaces of a busy life, and it would never have been completed but for the encouragement I received from Messrs. Cadbury Bros., Ltd., who aided me in every possible way. I am particularly indebted to the present Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Mr. W.A. Cadbury, for advice and criticism, and to Mr. Walter Barrow for reading the proofs. The members of the staff to whom I am indebted are Mr. W. Pickard, Mr. E.J. Organ, Mr. T.B. Rogers; also Mr. A. Hackett, for whom the diagrams in the manufacturing section were originally made by Mr. J.W. Richards. I am grateful to Messrs. J.S. Fry and Sons, Limited, for information and photographs. In one or two cases I do not know whom to thank for the photographs, which have been culled from many sources. I have much pleasure in thanking the following: Mr. R. Whymper for a large number of Trinidad photos; the Director of the Imperial Institute and Mr. John Murray for permission to use three illustrations from the Imperial Institute series of handbooks to the Commercial Resources of the Tropics; M. Ed. Leplae, Director-General of Agriculture, Belgium, for several photos, the blocks of which were kindly supplied by Mr. H. Hamel Smith, of Tropical Life; Messrs. Macmillan and Co. for five reproductions from C.J.J. van Hall's book on Cocoa; and West Africa for four illustrations of the Gold Coast.

The photographs reproduced on pages 2, 23, 39, 47, 49 and 71 are by Jacobson of Trinidad, on pages 85 and 86 by Underwood & Underwood of London, and on page 41 by Mrs. Stanhope Lovell of Trinidad.

The industry with which this book deals is changing slowly from an art to a science. It is in a transition period (it is one of the humours of any live industry that it is always in a transition period). There are many indications of scientific progress in cacao cultivation; and now that, in addition to the experimental and research departments attached to the principal firms, a Research Association has been formed for the cocoa and chocolate industry, the increased amount of diffused scientific knowledge of cocoa and chocolate manufacture should give rise to interesting developments.


Birmingham, February, 1920.






CHAPTER III HARVESTING AND PREPARATION FOR THE MARKET 45 With a dialogue on "The Kind of Cacao the Manufacturers Like."

CHAPTER IV CACAO PRODUCTION AND SALE 81 With notes on the chief producing areas, cacao markets, and the planter's life







BIBLIOGRAPHY 191 A List of the Important Books on Cocoa and Chocolate from the earliest times to the present day.



Cacao Pods Old Drawing of an American Indian, with Chocolate Whisk, etc. Native American Indians Roasting the Beans, etc. Ancient Mexican Drinking Cups Cacao Tree, with Pods and Leaves Cacao Tree, shewing Pods Growing from Trunk Flowers and Fruits on main branches of a Cacao Tree Cacao Pods Cut Pod, revealing the White Pulp round the Beans Cacao Pods, shewing Beans inside Drawing of Typical Pods illustrating varieties Tropical Forest, Trinidad Characteristic Root System of the Cacao Tree Nursery with the Young Cacao Plants in Baskets, Java Planting Cacao from Young Seedlings in Bamboo Pots, Trinidad Cacao in its Fourth Year Copy of an Old Engraving shewing the Cacao Tree, and a tree shading it Cacao Trees shaded by Kapok, Java Cacao Trees shaded by Bois Immortel, Trinidad Cacao Tree with Suckers Cutlassing Common Types of Cacao Pickers Gathering Cacao Pods, Trinidad Collecting Cacao Pods into a Heap Men Breaking Pods, etc. Sweating Boxes, Trinidad Fermenting Boxes, Java Charging Cacao on to Trucks in the Plantation, San Thome Cacao in the Fermenting Trucks, San Thome Tray-barrow for Drying Small Quantities Spreading the Cacao Beans on mats to dry, Ceylon Drying Trays, Grenada "Hamel Smith" Rotary Dryer Drying Platforms with Sliding Roofs, Trinidad Cacao Drying Platforms, San Thome Washing the Beans, Ceylon Claying Cacao Beans, Trinidad Sorting Cacao Beans, Java Diagram: World's Cacao Production MAP of the World, with only Cacao-Producing Areas marked Raking Cacao Beans on the Driers, Ecuador Gathering Cacao Pods, Ecuador Sorting Cacao for Shipment, Ecuador MAP of South America and the West Indies Workers on a Cacao Plantation MAP of Africa, with only Cacao-Producing Areas marked Foreshore at Accra, with Stacks of Cacao ready for Shipment Carriers conveying Bags of Cacao to Surf Boats, Accra Crossing the River, Gold Coast Drying Cacao Beans, Gold Coast Shooting Cacao from the Road to the Beach, Accra Rolling Cacao, Gold Coast Rolling Cacao, Gold Coast Carrying Cacao to the Railway Station, Gold Coast Wagon Loads of Cacao being taken from Depot to the Beach, Accra The Buildings of the Boa Entrada Cacao Estate, San Thome Drying Cacao, San Thome Barrel Rolling, Gold Coast Bagging Cacao, Gold Coast Surf Boats by the Side of the Ocean Liner, Accra Bagging Cacao Beans for Shipment, Trinidad Transferring Bags of Cacao to Lighters, Trinidad Diagram showing Variation in Price of Cacao Beans, 1913-1919 Group of Workers on Cacao Estate Carting Cacao to Railway Station, Ceylon The Carenage, Grenada Early Factory Methods Women Grinding Chocolate Cacao Bean Warehouse Cacao Bean Sorting and Cleaning Machine Diagram of Cacao Bean Cleaning Machine Section through Gas Heated Cacao Roaster Roasting Cacao Beans Cacao Bean, Shell and Germ Section through Kibbling Cones and Germ Screens Section through Winnowing Machine Cacao Grinding Section through Grinding Stones A Cacao Press Section through Cacao Press-pot and Ram-plate Chocolate Melangeur Plan of Chocolate Melangeur Chocolate Refining Machine Grinding Cacao Nib and Sugar Section through Chocolate Grinding Rolls "Conche" Machines Section through "Conche" Machine Machines for Mixing or "Conching" Chocolate Chocolate Shaking Table Girls Covering or Dipping Cremes, etc. The Enrober A Confectionery Room Factory at which Milk is Evaporated for Milk Chocolate Manufacture Cocoa and Chocolate Despatch Deck Boxing Chocolates Packing Chocolates Factory at which Milk is Evaporated for Milk Chocolate Manufacture Cacao Pods, Leaves and Flowers


In a few short chapters I propose to give a plain account of the production of cocoa and chocolate. I assume that the reader is not a specialist and knows little or nothing of the subject, and hence both the style of writing and the treatment of the subject will be simple. At the same time, I assume that the reader desires a full and accurate account, and not a vague story in which the difficulties are ignored. I hope that, as a result of this method of dealing with my subject, even experts will find much in the book that is of interest and value. After a brief survey of the history of cocoa and chocolate, I shall begin with the growing of the cacao bean, and follow the cacao in its career until it becomes the finished product ready for consumption.

Cacao or Cocoa?

The reader will have noted above the spelling "cacao," and to those who think it curious, I would say that I do not use this spelling from pedantry. It is an imitation of the word which the Mexicans used for this commodity as early as 1500, and when spoken by Europeans is apt to sound like the howl of a dog. The Mexicans called the tree from which cacao is obtained cacauatl. When the great Swedish scientist Linnaeus, the father of botany, was naming and classifying (about 1735) the trees and plants known in his time, he christened it Theobroma Cacao, by which name it is called by botanists to this day. Theo-broma is Greek for "Food of the Gods." Why Linnaeus paid this extraordinary compliment to cacao is obscure, but it has been suggested that he was inordinately fond of the beverage prepared from it—the cup which both cheers and satisfies. It will be seen from the above that the species-name is cacao, and one can understand that Englishmen, finding it difficult to get their insular lips round this outlandish word, lazily called it cocoa.

In this book I shall use the words cacao, cocoa, and chocolate as follows:

Cacao, when I refer to the cacao tree, the cacao pod, or the cacao bean or seed. By the single word, cacao, I imply the raw product, cacao beans, in bulk.

Cocoa, when I refer to the powder manufactured from the roasted bean by pressing out part of the butter. The word is too well established to be changed, even if one wished it. As we shall see later (in the chapter on adulteration) it has come legally to have a very definite significance. If this method of distinguishing between cacao and cocoa were the accepted practice, the perturbation which occurred in the public mind during the war (in 1916), as to whether manufacturers were exporting "cocoa" to neutral countries, would not have arisen. It should have been spelled "cacao," for the statements referred to the raw beans and not to the manufactured beverage. Had this been done, it would have been unnecessary for the manufacturers to point out that cocoa powder was not being so exported, and that they naturally did not sell the raw cacao bean.

Chocolate.—This word is given a somewhat wider meaning. It signifies any preparation of roasted cacao beans without abstraction of butter. It practically always contains sugar and added cacao butter, and is generally prepared in moulded form. It is used either for eating or drinking.

Cacao Beans and Coconuts.

In old manuscripts the word cacao is spelled in all manner of ways, but cocoa survived them all. This curious inversion, cocoa, is to be regretted, for it has led to a confusion which could not otherwise have arisen. But for this spelling no one would have dreamed of confusing the totally unrelated bodies, cacao and the milky coconut. (You note that I spell it "coconut," not "cocoanut," for the name is derived from the Spanish "coco," "grinning face," or bugbear for frightening children, and was given to the nut because the three scars at the broad end of the nut resemble a grotesque face). To make confusion worse confounded the old writers referred to cacao seeds as cocoa nuts (as for example, in The Humble Memorial of Joseph Fry, quoted in the chapter on history), but, as in appearance cacao seeds resemble beans, they are now usually spoken of as beans. The distinction between cacao and the coconut may be summarised thus:

Cacao. Coconut.

Botanical Name Theobroma Cacao Cocos nucifera Palm Tree Palm

Fruit Cacao pod, containing Coconut, which with outer many seeds (cacao beans) fibre is as large as a man's head

Products Cocoa Broken coconut (copra) Chocolate Coconut matting

Fatty Constituent Cacao butter Coconut oil



Did time and space allow, there is much to be told on the romantic side of chocolate, of its divine origin, of the bloody wars and brave exploits of the Spaniards who conquered Mexico and were the first to introduce cacao into Europe, tales almost too thrilling to be believed, of the intrigues of the Spanish Court, and of celebrities who met and sipped their chocolate in the parlours of the coffee and chocolate houses so fashionable in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Cocoa and Chocolate (Whymper).

On opening a cacao pod, it is seen to be full of beans surrounded by a fruity pulp, and whilst the pulp is very pleasant to taste, the beans themselves are uninviting, so that doubtless the beans were always thrown away until ... someone tried roasting them. One pictures this "someone," a pre-historic Aztec with swart skin, sniffing the aromatic fume coming from the roasting beans, and thinking that beans which smelled so appetising must be good to consume. The name of the man who discovered the use of cacao must be written in some early chapter of the history of man, but it is blurred and unreadable: all we know is that he was an inhabitant of the New World and probably of Central America.

Original Home of Cacao.

The corner of the earth where the cacao tree originally grew, and still grows wild to-day, is the country watered by the mighty Amazon and the Orinoco. This is the very region in which Orellano, the Spanish adventurer, said that he had truly seen El Dorado, which he described as a City of Gold, roofed with gold, and standing by a lake with golden sands. In reality, El Dorado was nothing but a vision, a vision that for a hundred years fascinated all manner of dreamers and adventurers from Sir Walter Raleigh downwards, so that many braved great hardships in search of it, groped through the forests where the cacao tree grew, and returned to Europe feeling they had failed. To our eyes they were not entirely unsuccessful, for whilst they failed to find a city of gold, they discovered the home of the golden pod.

Montezuma—the First Great Patron of Chocolate.

When Columbus discovered the New World he brought back with him to Europe many new and curious things, one of which was cacao. Some years later, in 1519, the Spanish conquistador, Cortes, landed in Mexico, marched into the interior and discovered to his surprise, not the huts of savages, but a beautiful city, with palaces and museums. This city was the capital of the Aztecs, a remarkable people, notable alike for their ancient civilisation and their wealth. Their national drink was chocolate, and Montezuma, their Emperor, who lived in a state of luxurious magnificence, "took no other beverage than the chocolatl, a potation of chocolate, flavoured with vanilla and other spices, and so prepared as to be reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually dissolved in the mouth and was taken cold. This beverage if so it could be called, was served in golden goblets, with spoons of the same metal or tortoise-shell finely wrought. The Emperor was exceedingly fond of it, to judge from the quantity—no less than fifty jars or pitchers being prepared for his own daily consumption: two thousand more were allowed for that of his household."[1] It is curious that Montezuma took no other beverage than chocolate, especially if it be true that the Aztecs also invented that fascinating drink, the cocktail (xoc-tl). How long this ancient people, students of the mysteries of culinary science, had known the art of preparing a drink from cacao, is not known, but it is evident that the cultivation of cacao received great attention in these parts, for if we read down the list of the tributes paid by different cities to the Lords of Mexico, we find "20 chests of ground chocolate, 20 bags of gold dust," again "80 loads of red chocolate, 20 lip-jewels of clear amber," and yet again "200 loads of chocolate."

[1] Prescott's Conquest of Mexico.

Another people that share with the Aztecs the honour of being the first great cultivators of cacao are the Incas of Peru, that wonderful nation that knew not poverty.

The Fascination of Chocolate.

That chocolate charmed the ladies of Mexico in the seventeenth century (even as it charms the ladies of England to-day) is shown by a story which Gage relates in his New Survey of the West Indias (1648). He tells us that at Chiapa, southward from Mexico, the women used to interrupt both sermon and mass by having their maids bring them a cup of hot chocolate; and when the Bishop, after fair warning, excommunicated them for this presumption, they changed their church. The Bishop, he adds, was poisoned for his pains.

Cacao Beans as Money.

Cacao was used by the Aztecs not only for the preparation of a beverage, but also as a circulating medium of exchange. For example, one could purchase a "tolerably good slave" for 100 beans. We read that: "Their currency consisted of transparent quills of gold dust, of bits of tin cut in the form of a T, and of bags of cacao containing a specified number of grains." "Blessed money," exclaims Peter Martyr, "which exempts its possessor from avarice, since it cannot be long hoarded, nor hidden underground!"

Derivation of Chocolate.

The word was derived from the Mexican chocolatl. The Mexicans used to froth their chocolatl with curious whisks made specially for the purpose (see page 6). Thomas Gage suggests that choco, choco, choco is a vocal representation of the sound made by stirring chocolate. The suffix atl means water. According to Mr. W.J. Gordon, we owe the name of chocolate to a misprint. He states that Joseph Acosta, who wrote as early as 1604 of chocolatl, was made by the printer to write chocolate, from which the English eliminated the accent, and the French the final letter.

First Cacao in Europe.

The Spanish discoverers of the New World brought home to Spain quantities of cacao, which the curious tasted. We may conclude that they drank the preparation cold, as Montezuma did, hot chocolate being a later invention. The new drink, eagerly sought by some, did not meet with universal approval, and, as was natural, the most diverse opinions existed as to the pleasantness and wholesomeness of the beverage when it was first known. Thus Joseph Acosta (1604) wrote: "The chief use of this cocoa is in a drincke which they call Chocholate, whereof they make great account, foolishly and without reason; for it is loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a skumme or frothe that is very unpleasant to taste, if they be not well conceited thereof. Yet it is a drincke very much esteemed among the Indians, whereof they feast noble men as they passe through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women, that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this chocholate." It is not impossible that the English, with the defeat of the Armada fresh in memory, were at first contemptuous of this "Spanish" drink. Certain it is, that when British sea-rovers like Drake and Frobisher, captured Spanish galleons on the high seas, and on searching their holds for treasure, found bags of cacao, they flung them overboard in scorn. In considering this scorn of cacao, shown alike by British buccaneers and Dutch corsairs, together with the critical air of Joseph Acosta, we should remember that the original chocolatl of the Mexicans consisted of a mixture of maize and cacao with hot spices like chillies, and contained no sugar. In this condition few inhabitants of the temperate zone could relish it. It however only needed one thing, the addition of sugar, and the introduction of this marked the beginning of its European popularity. The Spaniards were the first to manufacture and drink chocolate in any quantity. To this day they serve it in the old style—thick as porridge and pungent with spices. They endeavoured to keep secret the method of preparation, and, without success, to retain the manufacture as a monopoly. Chocolate was introduced into Italy by Carletti, who praised it and spread the method of its manufacture abroad. The new drink was introduced by monks from Spain into Germany and France, and when in 1660 Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain, married Louis XIV, she made chocolate well known at the Court of France. She it was of whom a French historian wrote that Maria Theresa had only two passions—the king and chocolate.

Chocolate was advocated by the learned physicians of those times as a cure for many diseases, and it was stated that Cardinal Richelieu had been cured of general atrophy by its use.

From France the use of chocolate spread into England, where it began to be drunk as a luxury by the aristocracy about the time of the Commonwealth. It must have made some progress in public favour by 1673, for in that year "a Lover of his Country" wrote in the Harleian Miscellany demanding its prohibition (along with brandy, rum, and tea) on the ground that this imported article did no good and hindered the consumption of English-grown barley and wheat. New things appeal to the imaginative, and the absence of authentic knowledge concerning them allows free play to the imagination—so it happened that in the early days, whilst many writers vied with one another in writing glowing panegyrics on cacao, a few thought it an evil thing. Thus, whilst it was praised by many for its "wonderful faculty of quenching thirst, allaying hectic heats, of nourishing and fattening the body," it was seriously condemned by others as an inflamer of the passions!

Chocolate Houses and Clubs.

"The drinking here of chocolate Can make a fool a sophie."

In the spacious days of Queen Elizabeth, tea, coffee, and chocolate were unknown save to travellers and savants, and the handmaidens of the good queen drank beer with their breakfast. When Shakespeare and Ben Jonson forgathered at the Mermaid Tavern, their winged words passed over tankards of ale, but later other drinks became the usual accompaniment of news, story, and discussion. In the sixteen-sixties there were no strident newspapers to destroy one's equanimity, and the gossip of the day began to be circulated and discussed over cups of tea, coffee, or chocolate. The humorists, ever stirred by novelty, tilted, pen in hand, at these new drinks: thus one rhymster described coffee as

"Syrrop of soot or essence of old shoes."

The first coffee-house in London was started in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, in 1652 (when coffee was seven shillings a pound); the first tea-house was opened in Exchange Alley in 1657 (when tea was five sovereigns a pound), and in the same year (with chocolate about ten to fifteen shillings per pound) a Frenchman opened the first chocolate-house in Queen's Head Alley, Bishopsgate Street. The rising popularity of chocolate led to the starting of more of these chocolate houses, at which one could sit and sip chocolate, or purchase the commodity for preparation at home. Pepys' entry in his diary for 24th November, 1664, contains: "To a coffee house to drink jocolatte, very good." It is an artless entry, and yet one can almost hear him smacking his lips. Silbermann says that "After the Restoration there were shops in London for the sale of chocolate at ten shillings or fifteen shillings per pound. Ozinda's chocolate house was full of aristocratic consumers. Comedies, satirical essays, memoirs and private letters of that age frequently mention it. The habit of using chocolate was deemed a token of elegant and fashionable taste, and while the charms of this beverage in the reigns of Queen Anne and George I. were so highly esteemed by courtiers, by lords and ladies and fine gentlemen in the polite world, the learned physicians extolled its medicinal virtues." From the coffee house and its more aristocratic relative the chocolate house, there developed a new feature in English social life—the Club. As the years passed the Chocolate House remained a rendezvous, but the character of its habitues changed from time to time. Thus one, famous in the days of Queen Anne, and well known by its sign of the "Cocoa Tree," was at first the headquarters of the Jacobite party, and the resort of Tories of the strictest school. It became later a noted gambling house ("The gamesters shook their elbows in White's and the chocolate houses round Covent Garden," National Review, 1878), and ultimately developed into a literary club, including amongst its members Gibbon, the historian, and Byron, the poet.

Tax on Cacao.

The growing consumption of chocolate did not escape the all-seeing eye of the Chancellors of England. As early as 1660 we find amongst various custom and excise duties granted to Charles II:

"For every gallon of chocolate, sherbet, and tea made and sold, to be paid by the maker thereof ..... 8d."

Later the raw material was also made a source of revenue. In The Humble Memorial of Joseph Fry, of Bristol, Maker of Chocolate, which was addressed to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury in 1776 (Messrs. Fry and Sons are the oldest English firm of chocolate makers, having been founded in 1728), we read that "Chocolate ... pays two shillings and threepence per pound excise, besides about ten shillings per hundredweight on the Cocoa Nuts from which it is made."

In 1784 a preferential customs rate was proposed in favour of our Colonies. This they enjoyed for many years before 1853, when the uniform rate, until recently in force, was introduced. This restrictive tariff on foreign growths rose in 1803 to 5s. 10d. per pound, against 1s. 10d. on cacao grown in British possessions. From this date it gradually diminished. High duties hampered for many years the sale of cocoa, tea and coffee, but in recent times these duties have been brought down to more reasonable figures. For many years before 1915 the import duty was 1d. per pound on the raw cacao beans, 1d. per pound on cacao butter, and 2s. a hundredweight (less than a farthing a pound) on cacao shells or husks. In the Budget of September, 1915, the above duties were increased by fifty per cent. A further and greater increase was made in the Budget of April, 1916, when cacao was made to pay a higher tax in Britain than in any other country in the world. In 1919 Imperial preference was introduced after a break of over sixty years, the duty on cocoa from foreign countries being 3/4d. a pound more than that from British Possessions.

Duty on Cacao.

1855-1915. 1915. 1916. 1919. Cacao beans per lb. 1d. 1-1/2d. 6d. 4-1/2d. foreign, 3-3/4d. British Cacao butter per lb. 1d. 1-1/2d. 6d. 4-1/2d. foreign, 3-3/4d. British Cacao shells per cwt. 2s. 3s. 12s. 6s. foreign, 5s. British

In considering this duty and its effect on the price of the finished article, it should be remembered that there are substantial losses in manufacture. Thus the beans are cleaned, which removes up to 0.5 per cent.; roasted, which causes a loss by volatilisation of 7 per cent.; and shelled, the husks being about 12 per cent. Therefore, the actual yield of usable nib, which has to bear the whole duty, is about 80 per cent. It may be well to add that the yield of cocoa powder is 48 per cent. of the raw beans, or roughly, one pound of the raw product yields half a pound of the finished article.

Introduction of Cocoa Powder.

The drink "cocoa" as we know it to-day was not introduced until 1828. Before this time the ground bean, mixed with sugar, was sold in cakes. The beverage prepared from these chocolate cakes was very rich in butter, and whilst the British Navy has always consumed it in this condition (the sailors generally remove with a spoon the excess of butter which floats to the top) it is a little heavy for less hardy digestions. Van Houten (of the well-known Dutch house of that name) in 1828 invented a method of pressing out part of the butter, and thus obtained a lighter, more appetising, and more easily assimilated preparation. As the butter is useful in chocolate manufacture, this process enabled the manufacturer to produce a less costly cocoa powder, and thus the circle of consumers was widened. Messrs. Cadbury Bros., of Birmingham, first sold their "cocoa essence" in 1866, and Messrs. Fry and Sons, of Bristol, introduced a pure cocoa by pressing out part of the butter in 1868.

Growing Popularity of Cacao Preparations.

The incidence of import duties did not prevent the continuous increase in the amount of cacao consumed in the British Isles. When Queen Victoria came to the throne the cacao cleared for home consumption was about four or five thousand tons, more than half of which was consumed by the Navy. At the time of Queen Victoria's death it had increased to four times this amount, and by 1915 it had reached nearly fifty thousand tons. (For statistics of consumption, see p. 183).

* * * * *

This brief sketch of the history of cacao owes much to "Cocoa—all about it," by Historicus (the pseudonym of the late Richard Cadbury). This work is out of print, but those who are fortunate enough to be able to consult it will find therein much that is curious and discursive.



O tree, upraised in far-off Mexico!

"Ode to the Chocolate Tree," 1664.

How seldom do we think, when we drink a cup of cocoa or eat some morsels of chocolate, that our liking for these delicacies has set minds and bodies at work all the world over! Many types of humanity have contributed to their production. Picture in the mind's eye the graceful coolie in the sun-saturated tropics, moving in the shade, cutting the pods from the cacao tree; the deep-chested sailor helping to load from lighters or surf-boats the precious bags of cacao into the hold of the ocean liner; the skilful workman roasting the beans until they fill the room with a fine aroma; and the girl with dexterous fingers packing the cocoa or fashioning the chocolate in curious, and delicate forms. To the black and brown races, the negroes and the East Indians, we owe a debt for their work on tropical plantations, for the harder manual work would be too arduous for Europeans unused to the heat of those regions.

Climate Necessary.

Cacao can only grow at tropical temperatures, and when shielded from the wind and unimpaired by drought. Enthusiasts, as a hobby, have grown the tree under glass in England; it requires a warmer temperature than either tea or coffee, and only after infinite care can one succeed in getting the tree to flower and bear fruit. The mean temperature in the countries in which it thrives is about 80 degrees F. in the shade, and the average of the maximum temperatures is seldom more than 90 degrees F., or the average of the minimum temperatures less than 70 degrees F. The rainfall can be as low as 45 inches per annum, as in the Gold Coast, or as high as 150 inches, as in Java, provided the fall is uniformly distributed. The ideal spot is the secluded vale, and whilst in Venezuela there are plantations up to 2000 feet above sea level, cacao cannot generally be profitably cultivated above 1000 feet.

Factors of Geographical Distribution.

Climate, soil, and manures determine the possible region of cultivation—the extent to which the area is utilised depends on the enterprise of man. The original home of cacao was the rich tropical region, far-famed in Elizabethan days, that lies between the Amazon and the Orinoco, and but for the enterprise of man it is doubtful if it would have ever spread from this region. Monkeys often carry the beans many miles—man, the master-monkey, has carried them round the world. First the Indians spread cacao over the tropical belt of the American continent and cultivated it as far North as Mexico. Then came the Spanish explorers of the New World, who carried it from the mainland to the adjacent West Indian islands. Cacao was planted by them in Trinidad as early as 1525. Since that date it has been successfully introduced into many a tropical island. It was an important day in the history of Ceylon when Sir R. Horton, in 1834, had cacao plants brought to that island from Trinidad. The carefully packed plants survived the ordeal of a voyage of ten thousand miles. The most recent introduction is, however, the most striking. About 1880 a native of the Gold Coast obtained some beans, probably from Fernando Po. In 1891, the first bag of cacao was exported; it weighed 80 pounds. In 1915, 24 years later, the export from the Gold Coast was 120 million pounds.

The Cacao Tree.

Tropical vegetation appears so bizarre to the visitor from temperate climes that in such surroundings the cacao tree seems almost commonplace. It is in appearance as moderate and unpretentious as an apple tree, though somewhat taller, being, when full grown, about twenty feet high. It begins to bear in its fourth or fifth year. Smooth in its early youth, as it gets older it becomes covered with little bosses (cushions) from which many flowers spring. I saw one fellow, very tall and gnarled, and with many pods on it; turning to the planter I enquired "How old is that tree?" He replied, almost reverentially: "It's a good deal older than I am; must be at least fifty years old." "It's one of the tallest cacao trees I've seen. I wonder—." The planter perceived my thought, and said: "I'll have it measured for you." It was forty feet high. That was a tall one; usually they are not more than half that height. The bark is reddish-grey, and may be partly hidden by brown, grey and green patches of lichen. The bark is both beautiful and quaint, but in the main the tree owes its beauty to its luxuriance of prosperous leaves, and its quaintness to its pods.

The Flowers, Leaves and Fruit.

Although cacao trees are not unlike the fruit trees of England, there are differences which, when first one sees them, cause expressions of surprise and pleasure to leap to the lips. One sees what one never saw before, the fruit springing from the main trunk, quite close to the ground. An old writer has explained that this is due to a wise providence, because the pod is so heavy that if it hung from the end of the branches it would fall off before it reached maturity. The old writer talks of providence; a modern writer would see in the same facts a simple example of evolution. On the same cacao tree every day of the year may be found flowers, young podkins and mature pods side by side. I say "found" advisedly—at the first glance one does not see the flowers because they are so dainty and so small. The buds are the size of rice grains, and the flowers are not more than half an inch across when the petals are fully out. The flowers are pink or yellow, of wax-like appearance, and have no odour. They were commonly stated to be pollinated by thrips and other insects. Dr. von Faber of Java has recently shown that whilst self-pollination is the rule, cross fertilisation occurs between the flowers on adjacent or interlocking trees. These graceful flowers are so small that one can walk through a plantation without observing them, although an average tree will produce six thousand blossoms in a year. Not more than one per cent. of these will become fruit. Usually it takes six months for the bud to develop into the mature fruit. The lovely mosses that grow on the stems and branches are sometimes so thick that they have to be destroyed, or the fragile cacao flower could not push its way through. Whilst the flowers are small, the leaves are large, being as an average about a foot in length and four inches in breadth. The cacao tree never appears naked, save on the rare occasions when it is stripped by the wind, and the leaves are green all the year round, save when they are red, if the reader will pardon an Hibernianism. And indeed there is something contrary in the crimson tint, for whilst we usually associate this with old leaves about to fall, with the cacao, as with some rose trees, it is the tint of the young leaves.

The Cacao Pod.

The fruit, which hangs on a short thick stalk, may be anything in shape from a melon to a stumpy, irregular cucumber, according to the botanic variety. The intermediate shape is like a lemon, with furrows from end to end. There are pods, called Calabacillo, smooth and ovate like a calabash, and there are others, more rare, so "nobbly" that they are well-named "Alligator." The pods vary in length from five to eleven inches, "with here and there the great pod of all, the blood-red sangre-tora." The colours of the pods are as brilliant as they are various. They are rich and strong, and resemble those of the rind of the pomegranate. One pod shows many shades of dull crimson, another grades from gold to the yellow of leather, and yet another is all lack-lustre pea-green. They may be likened to Chinese lanterns hanging in the woods. One does not conclude from the appearance of the pod that the contents are edible, any more than one would surmise that tea-leaves could be used to produce a refreshing drink. I say as much to the planter, who smiles. With one deft cut with his machete or cutlass, which hangs in a leather scabbard by his side, the planter severs the pod from the tree, and with another slash cuts the thick, almost woody rind and breaks open the pod. There is disclosed a mass of some thirty or forty beans, covered with juicy pulp. The inside of the rind and the mass of beans are gleaming white, like melting snow. Sometimes the mass is pale amethyst in colour. I perceive a pleasant odour resembling melon. Like little Jack Horner, I put in my thumb and pull out a snow-white bean. It is slippery to hold, so I put it in my mouth. The taste is sweet, something between grape and melon. Inside this fruity coating is the bean proper. From different pods we take beans and cut them in two, and find that the colour of the bean varies from purple almost to white.

Botanical Description.

Theobroma Cacao belongs to the family of the Sterculiaceae, and to the same order as the Limes and Mallows. It is described in Strasburger's admirable Text-Book of Botany as follows:

"Family. Sterculiaceae.

IMPORTANT GENERA. The most important plant is the Cocoa Tree (Theobroma Cacao). It is a low tree with short-stalked, firm, brittle, simple leaves of large size, oval shape, and dark green colour. The young leaves are of a bright red colour, and, as in many tropical trees, hang limply downwards. The flowers are borne on the main stem or the older branches, and arise from dormant axillary buds (Cauliflory). Each petal is bulged up at the base, narrows considerably above this, and ends in an expanded tip. The form of the reddish flowers is thus somewhat urn-shaped with five radiating points. The pentalocular ovary has numerous ovules in each loculus. As the fruit develops, the soft tissue of the septa extends between the single seeds; the ripe fruit is thus unilocular and many-seeded. The seed-coat is filled by the embryo, which has two large, folded, brittle cotyledons."

The last sentence conveys an erroneous impression. The two cotyledons, which form the seed, are not brittle when found in nature in the pod. They are juicy and fleshy. And it is only after the seed has received special treatment (fermentation and drying) to obtain the bean of commerce, that it becomes brittle.

Varieties of Theobroma Cacao.

As mentioned above, the pods and seeds of Theobroma Cacao trees show a marked variation, and in every country the botanist has studied these variations and classified the trees according to the shape and colour of the pods and seeds. The existence of so many classifications has led to a good deal of confusion, and we are indebted to Van Hall for the simplest way of clearing up these difficulties. He accepts the classification first given by Morris, dividing the trees into two varieties—Criollo and Forastero:

Extremes of Characteristics.

Criollo. Forastero.

(Old Red, Caracas, etc.) Grading from Cundeamor (bottle-necked) to Calabacillo (smooth).

Pod walls. Thin and warty. Thick and woody.

Beans. Large and plump. Small and flat. White. Heliotrope to purple. Sweet. Astringent.

The cacao of the criollo variety has pods the walls of which are thin and warty, with ten distinct furrows. The seeds or beans are white as ivory throughout, round and plump, and sweet to taste. The forastero variety includes many sub-varieties, the kind most distinct from the criollo having pods, the walls of which are thick and woody, the surface smooth, the furrows indistinct, and the shape globular. The seeds in these pods are purple in colour, flat in appearance, and bitter to taste. This is a very convenient classification. Personally I believe it would be possible to find pods varying by almost imperceptible gradations from the finest, purest, criollo to the lowest form of forastero (namely, calabacillo). The criollo yields the finest and rarest kind of cacao, but as sometimes happens with refined types in nature, it is a rather delicate tree, especially liable to canker and bark diseases, and this accounts for the predominance of the forastero in the cacao plantations of the world.

The Cacao Plantation.

One can spend happy days on a cacao estate. "Are you going into the cocoa?" they ask, just as in England we might enquire, "Are you going into the corn?"

Coconut plantations and sugar estates make a strong appeal to the imagination, but for peaceful beauty they cannot compare with the cacao plantation. True, coconut plantations are very lovely—the palms are so graceful, the leaves against the sky so like a fine etching—but "the slender coco's drooping crown of plumes" is altogether foreign to English eyes. Sugar estates are generally marred by the prosaic factory in the background. They are dead level plains, and the giant grass affords no shade from the relentless sun. Whereas the leaves of the cacao tree are large and numerous, so that even in the heat of the day, it is comparatively cool and pleasant under the cacao.

Cacao plantations present in different countries every variety of appearance—from that of a wild forest in which the greater portion of the trees are cacao, to the tidy and orderly plantation. In some of the Trinidad plantations the trees are planted in parallel lines twelve feet apart, with a tree every twelve feet along the line; and as you push your way through the plantation the apparently irregularly scattered trees are seen to flash momentarily into long lines. In other parts of the world, for example, in Grenada and Surinam, the ground may be kept so tidy and free from weeds that they have the appearance of gardens.

Clearing the Land.

When the planter has chosen a suitable site, an exercise requiring skill, the forest has to be cleared. The felling of great trees and the clearing of the wild tangle of undergrowth is arduous work. It is well to leave the trees on the ridges for about sixty feet on either side, and thus form a belt of trees to act as wind screen. Cacao trees are as sensitive to a draught as some human beings, and these "wind breaks" are often deliberately grown—Balata, Poui, Mango (Trinidad), Galba (Grenada), Wild Pois Doux (Martinique), and other leafy trees being suitable for this purpose.

Suitable Soil.

It was for many years believed that if a tree were analysed the best soil for its growth could at once be inferred and described, as it was assumed that the best soil would be one containing the same elements in similar proportions. This simple theory ignored the characteristic powers of assimilation of the tree in question and the "digestibility" of the soil constituents. However, it is agreed that soils rich in potash and lime (e.g., those obtained by the decomposition of certain volcanic rocks) are good for cacao. An open sandy or loamy alluvial soil is considered ideal. The physical condition of the soil is equally important: heavy clays or water-logged soils are bad. The depth of soil required depends on its nature. A stiff soil discourages the growth of the "tap" root, which in good porous soils is generally seven or eight feet long.


The greater part of the world's cacao is produced without the use of artificial manures. The soil, which is continually washed down by the rains into the rivers, is continually renewed by decomposition of the bed rock, and in the tropics this decomposition is more rapid than in temperate climes. In Guayaquil, "notwithstanding the fact that the same soil has been cropped consecutively for over a hundred years, there is as yet no sign of decadence, nor does a necessity yet arise for artificial manure."[1] However, manures are useful with all soils, and necessary with many. Happy is the planter who is so placed that he can obtain a plentiful supply of farmyard or pen manure, as this gives excellent results. "Mulching" is also recommended. This consists of covering the ground with decaying leaves, grasses, etc., which keep the soil in a moist and open condition during the dry season. If artificial manures are used they should vary according to the soil, and, although he can obtain considerable help from the analyst, the planter's most reliable guide will be experiment on the spot.

[1] Bulletin, Botanic Dept., Jamaica, February, 1900.


In the past insufficient care has been taken in the selection of seed. The planter should choose the large plump beans with a pale interior, or he should choose the nearest kind to this that is sufficiently hardy to thrive in the particular environment. He can plant (1) direct from seeds, or (2) from seedlings—plants raised in nurseries in bamboo pots, or (3) by grafting or budding. It is usual to plant two or three seeds in each hole, and destroy the weaker plants when about a foot high. The seeds are planted from twelve to fifteen feet apart. The distance chosen depends chiefly on the richness of the soil; the richer the soil, the more ample room is allowed for the trees to spread without choking each other. Interesting results have been obtained by Hart and others by grafting the fine but tender criollo on to the hardy forastero, but until yesterday the practice had not been tried on a large scale. Experiments were begun in 1913 by Mr. W.G. Freeman in Trinidad which promise interesting results. By 1919 the Department of Agriculture had seven acres in grafted and budded cacao. In a few years it should be possible to say whether it pays to form an estate of budded cacao in preference to using seedlings.

There are no longer any mystic rites performed before planting. In the old days it was the custom to solemnize the planting, for example, by sacrificing a cacao-coloured dog (see Bancroft's Native Races of the Pacific States.)

Shade: Temporary and Permanent.

When the seeds are planted, such small plants as cassava, chillies, pigeon peas and the like are planted with them. The object of planting these is to afford the young cacao plant shelter from the sun, and to keep the ground in good condition. Incidentally the planter obtains cassava (which gives tapioca), red peppers, etc., as a "catch crop" whilst he is waiting for the cacao tree to begin to yield. Bananas and plantains are planted with the same object, and these are allowed to remain for a longer period. Such is the rapidity of plant growth in the tropics that in three or four years the cacao tree is taller than a man, and begins to bear fruit in its fourth or fifth year. Now it is agreed that, as with men, the cacao tree needs protection in its youth, but whether it needs shade trees when it is fully grown is one of the controverted questions. When the planter is sitting after his day's work is done, and no fresh topic comes to his mind, he often re-opens the discussion on the question of shade. The idea that cacao trees need shade is a very ancient one, as is shown in a very old drawing (possibly the oldest drawing of cacao extant) beneath which it is written: "Of the tree which bears cacao, which is money, and how the Indians obtained fire with two pieces of wood." In this drawing you will observe how lovingly the shade tree shelters the cacao. The intention in using shade is to imitate the natural forest conditions in which the wild cacao grew. Sometimes when clearing the forest certain large trees are left standing, but more frequently and with better judgment, chosen kinds are planted. Many trees have been used: the saman, bread fruit, mango, mammet, sand box, pois doux, rubber, etc. In the illustration showing kapok acting as a parasol for cacao in Java, we see that the proportion of shade trees to cacao is high. Leguminous trees are preferred because they conserve the nitrogen in the soil. Hence in Trinidad the favourite shade tree is Erythrina or Bois Immortel (so called, a humourist suggests, because it is short-lived). It is also rather prettily named, "Mother of Cacao." Usually the shade trees are planted about 40 feet apart, but there are cacao plantations which might cause a stranger to enquire, "Is this an Immortel plantation?" so closely are these conspicuous trees planted. When looking down a Trinidad valley, richly planted with cacao, one sees in every direction the silver-grey trunks of the Immortel. In the early months of the year these trees have no leaves, they are a mass of flame-coloured flowers, each "shafted like a scimitar." It well repays the labour of climbing a hill to look down on this vermilion glory. Some Trinidad planters believe that their trees would die without shade, yet in Grenada, only a hundred miles North as the steamer sails, there are whole plantations without a single shade tree. The Grenadians say: "You cannot have pods without flowers, and you cannot have good flowering without light and air." Shade trees are not used on some estates in San Thome, and in Brazil there are cocoa kings with 200,000 trees without one shade tree. It should be mentioned, however, that in these countries the cacao trees are planted more closely (about eight feet apart) and themselves shade the soil. Professor Carmody, in reporting[2] recently on the result of a four years' experiment with (1) shade, (2) no shade, (3) partial shade, says that so far partial shade has given the best results. No general solution has yet been found to the question of the advantage of shade, and, as Shaw states for morality, so in agriculture, "the golden rule is that there is no golden rule." Not only is there the personal factor, but nature provides an infinite variety of environments, and the best results are obtained by the use of methods appropriate to the local conditions.

[2] Bulletin Dept. of Agriculture, Trinidad, 1916.

Form of Tree-growth Desired: Suckers.

Viscount Mountmorres, in a delightfully clear exposition of cacao cultivation which he gave to the native farmers and chiefs of the Gold Coast in 1906, said: "In pruning, it is necessary always to bear in mind that the best shape for cacao trees is that of an enlarged open umbrella," with a height under the umbrella not exceeding seven feet. With this ideal in his mind, the planter should train up the tree in the way it should go. Viscount Mountmorres also said that everything that grows upwards, except the main stem, must be cut off.

This opens a question which is of great interest to planters as to whether it is wise to allow shoots to grow out from the main trunk near the ground. Some hold that the high yield on their plantation is due to letting these upright shoots grow. "Mi Amigo Corsicano said: 'Diavolo, let the cacao-trees grow, let them branch off like any other fruit-tree, say the tamarind, the 'chupon' or sucker will in time bear more than its mother.'"[3] There seems to be some evidence that old trees profit from the "chupons" because they continue to bear when the old trunk is weary, but this is compensated for by the fact that the "chupons" (Portuguese for suckers) were grown at the expense of the tree in its youth. Hence other planters call them "thieves," and "gormandizers," saying that they suck the sap from the tree, turning all to wood. They follow the advice given as early as 1730 by the author of The Natural History of Chocolate, when he says: "Cut or lop off the suckers." In Trinidad, experiments have been started, and after a five years' test, Professor Carmody says that the indications are that it is a matter of indifference whether "chupons" are allowed to grow or not.

[3] "How Jose formed his Cocoa Estate."

After hunting, agriculture is man's oldest industry, and improvements come but slowly, for the proving of a theory often requires work on a huge scale carried out for several decades. The husbandry of the earth goes on from century to century with little change, and the methods followed are the winnowings of experience, tempered with indolence. And even with the bewildering progress of science in other directions, sound improvements in this field are rare discoveries. There is great scope for the application of physical and chemical knowledge to the production of the raw materials of the tropics. In one or two instances notable advances have been made, thus the direct production of a white sugar (as now practised at Java) at the tropical factory will have far-reaching effects, but with many tropical products the methods practised are as ancient as they are haphazard. Like all methods founded on long experience, they suit the environment and the temperament of the people who use them, so that the work of the scientist in introducing improvements requires intimate knowledge of the conditions if his suggestions are to be adopted. The various Departments of Agriculture are doing splendid pioneer work, but the full harvest of their sowing will not be reaped until the number of tropically-educated agriculturists has been increased by the founding of three or four agricultural colleges and research laboratories in equatorial regions.

There is much research to be done. As yet, however, many planters are ignorant of all that is already established, the facilities for education in tropical agriculture being few and far between. There are signs, however, of development in this direction. It is pleasant to note that a start was made in Ceylon at the end of 1917 by opening an agricultural school at Peradenija. Trinidad has for a number of years had an agricultural school, and is eager to have a college devoted to agriculture. In 1919, Messrs. Cadbury Bros. gave L5000 to form the nucleus of a special educational fund for the Gold Coast. The scientists attached to the several government agricultural departments in Java, Ceylon, Trinidad, the Philippines, Africa, etc., have done splendid work, but it is desirable that the number of workers should be increased. When the world wakes up to the importance of tropical produce, agricultural colleges will be scattered about the tropics, so that every would-be planter can learn his subject on the spot.

Diseases of the Cacao Tree.

Take, for example, the case of the diseases of plants. Everyone who takes an interest in the garden knows how destructive the insect pests and vegetable parasites can be. In the tropics their power for destruction is very great, and they are a constant menace to economic products like cacao. The importance of understanding their habits, and of studying methods of keeping them in check, is readily appreciated; the planter may be ruined by lacking this knowledge.

The cacao tree has been improved and "domesticated" to satisfy human requirements, a process which has rendered it weaker to resist attacks from pests and parasites. It is usual to classify man amongst the pests, as either from ignorance or by careless handling he can do the tree much harm. Other animal pests are the wanton thieves: monkeys, squirrels and rats, who destroy more fruit than they consume. The insect pests include varieties of beetles, thrips, aphides, scale insects and ants, whilst fungi are the cause of the "Canker" in the stem and branches, the "Witch-broom" disease in twigs and leaves, and the "Black Rot" of pods.

The subject is too immense to be summarised in a few lines, and I recommend readers who wish to know more of this or other division of the science of cacao cultivation, to consult one or more of the four classics in English on this subject:

Cocoa, by Herbert Wright (Ceylon), 1907. Cacao, by J. Hinchley Hart (Trinidad), 1911. Cocoa, by W.H. Johnson (Nigeria), 1912. Cocoa, by C.J.J. van Hall (Java), 1914.



The picking, gathering, and breaking of the cacao are the easiest jobs on the plantation.

"How Jose formed his Cocoa Estate."

Gathering and Heaping.

In the last chapter I gave a brief account of the cultivation of cacao. I did not deal with forking, spraying, cutlassing, weeding, and so forth, as it would lead us too far into purely technical discussions. I propose we assume that the planter has managed his estate well, and that the plantation is before us looking very healthy and full of fruit waiting to be picked. The question arises: How shall we gather it? Shall we shake the tree? Cacao pods do not fall off the tree even when over-ripe. Shall we knock off or pluck the pods? To do so would make a scar on the trunk of the tree, and these wounds are dangerous in tropical climates, as they are often attacked by canker. A sharp machete or cutlass is used to cut off the pods which grow on the lower part of the trunk. As the tree is not often strong enough to bear a man, climbing is out of the question, and a knife on a pole is used for cutting off the pods on the upper branches. Various shaped knives are used by different planters, a common and efficient kind (see drawing), resembles a hand of steel, with the thumb as a hook, so that the pod-stalk can be cut either by a push or a pull. A good deal of ingenuity has been expended in devising a "foolproof" picker which shall render easy the cutting of the pod-stalk and yet not cut or damage the bark of the tree. A good example is the Agostini picker, which was approved by Hart.

The gathering of the fruits of one's labour is a pleasant task, which occurs generally only at rare intervals. Cacao is gathered the whole year round. There is, however, in most districts one principal harvest period, and a subsidiary harvest.

With cacao in the tropics, as with corn in England, the gathering of the harvest is a delight to lovers of the beautiful. It is a great charm of the cacao plantation that the trees are so closely planted that nowhere does the sunlight find between the foliage a space larger than a man's hand. After the universal glare outside, it seems dark under the cacao, although the ground is bright with dappled sunshine. You hear a noise of talking, of rustling leaves, and falling pods. You come upon a band of coolies or negroes. One near you carries a long bamboo—as long as a fishing rod—with a knife at the end. With a lithe movement he inserts it between the boughs, and, by giving it a sharp jerk, neatly cuts the stalk of a pod, which falls from the tree to the ground. Only the ripe pods must be picked. To do this, not only must the picker's aim be true, but he must also have a good eye for colour. Whether the pods be red or green, as soon as the colour begins to be tinted with yellow it is ripe for picking. This change occurs first along the furrows in the pod. Fewer unripe pods would be gathered if only one kind of pod were grown on one plantation. The confusion of kinds and colours which is often found makes sound judgment very difficult. That the men generally judge correctly the ripeness of pods high in the trees is something to wonder at. The pickers pass on, strewing the earth with ripe pods. They are followed by the graceful, dark-skinned girls, who gather one by one the fallen pods from the greenery, until their baskets are full. Sometimes a basketful is too heavy and the girl cannot comfortably lift it on to her head, but when one of the men has helped her to place it there, she carries it lightly enough. She trips through the trees, her bracelets jingling, and tumbles the pods on to the heap. Once one has seen a great heap of cacao pods it glows in one's memory: anything more rich, more daring in the way of colour one's eye is unlikely to light on. The artist, seeking only an aesthetic effect would be content with this for the consummation and would wish the pods to remain unbroken.

Breaking and Extracting.

There are planters who believe that the product is improved by leaving the gathered pods several days before breaking; and they would follow the practice, but for the risk of losses by theft. Hence the pods are generally broken on the same day as they are gathered. The primitive methods of breaking with a club or by banging on a hard surface are happily little used. Masson of New York made pod-breaking machines, and Sir George Watt has recently invented an ingenious machine for squeezing the beans out of the pod, but at present the extraction is done almost universally by hand, either by men or women. A knife which would cut the husk of the pod and was so constructed that it could not injure the beans within, would be a useful invention. The human extractor has the advantage that he or she can distinguish the diseased, unripe or germinated beans and separate them from the good ones. Picture the men sitting round the heap of pods and, farther out, in a larger circle, twice as many girls with baskets. The man breaks the pod and the girls extract the beans. The man takes the pod in his left hand and gives it a sharp slash with a small cutlass, just cutting through the tough shell of the pod, but not into the beans inside; and then gives the blade, which he has embedded in the shell, a twisting jerk, so that the pod breaks in two with a crisp crack. The girls take the broken pods and scoop out the snow-like beans with a flat wooden spoon or a piece of rib-bone, the beans being pulled off the stringy core (or placenta) which holds them together. The beans are put preferably into baskets or, failing these, on to broad banana leaves, which are used as trays.

Practice renders these processes cheerful and easy work, often performed to an accompaniment of laughing and chattering.


I allow myself the pleasure of thinking that I am causing some of my readers a little surprise when I tell them that cacao is fermented, and that the fermentation produces alcohol. As I mentioned above, the cacao bean is covered with a fruity pulp. The bean as it comes from the pod is moist, whilst the pulp is full of juice. It would be impossible to convey it to Europe in this condition; it would decompose, and, when it reached its destination, would be worthless. In order that a product can be handled commercially it is desirable to have it in such a condition that it does not change, and thus with cacao it becomes necessary to get rid of the pulp, and, whilst this may be done by washing or simply by drying, experience has shown that the finest and driest product is obtained when the drying is preceded by fermentation. Just as broken grapes will ferment, so will the fruity pulp of the cacao bean. Present day fermentaries are simply convenient places for storing the cacao whilst the process goes on. In the process of fermentation, Dr. Chittenden says the beans are "stewed in their own juice." This may be expressed less picturesquely but more accurately by saying the beans are warmed by the heat of their own fermenting pulp, from which they absorb liquid.

In Trinidad the cacao which the girls have scooped out into the baskets is emptied into larger baskets, two of which are "crooked" on a mule's back, and carried thus to the fermentary. In Surinam it is conveyed by boat, and in San Thome by trucks, which run on Decauville railways.

The period of fermentation and the receptacle to hold the cacao vary from country to country. With cacao of the criollo type only one or two days fermentation is required, and as a result, in Ecuador and Ceylon, the cacao is simply put in heaps on a suitable floor. In Trinidad and the majority of other cacao-producing areas, where the forastero variety predominates, from five to nine days are required. The cacao is put into the "sweat" boxes and covered with banana or plantain leaves to keep in the heat. The boxes may measure four feet each way and be made of sweet-smelling cedar wood. As is usual with fermentation, the temperature begins to rise, and if you thrust your hands into the fermenting beans you find they are as hot and mucilaginous as a poultice.

Time. Temperature. When put in 25 deg. C. or 77 deg. F. After 1 day 30 deg. C. or 89 deg. F. After 2 days 37 deg. C. or 98 deg. F. After 3 days 47 deg. C. or 115 deg. F.

(After the third day the heat is maintained, but the temperature rises very little.)

The temperature is the simplest guide to the amount of fermentation taking place, and the uniformity of the temperature in all parts of the mass is desirable, as showing that all parts are fermenting evenly. The cacao is usually shovelled from one box to another every one or two days. The chief object of this operation is to mix the cacao and prevent merely local fermentation. To make mixing easy one ingenious planter uses a cylindrical vessel which can be turned about on its axis.

In other places, for example in Java, the boxes are arranged as a series of steps, so that the cacao is transferred with little labour from the higher to the lower. In San Thome the cacao is placed on the plantation direct into trucks, which are covered with plaintain leaves, and run on rails through the plantation right into the fermentary. Some day some enterprising firm will build a fermentary in portable sections easily erected, and with some simple mechanical mixer to replace the present laborious method of turning the beans by manual labour.

The general conditions[1] for a good fermentation are:

(1) The mass of beans must be kept warm.

(2) The mass of beans must be moist, but not sodden.

(3) In the later stages there must be sufficient air.

(4) The boxes must be kept clean.

[1] For full details see the pamphlet by the author on The Practice of Fermentation in Trinidad.

Changes during Fermentation.

No entirely satisfactory theory of the changes in cacao due to fermentation has yet been established. It is known that the sugary pulp outside the beans ferments in a similar way to other fruit pulp, save that for a yeast fermentation the temperature rises unusually high (in three days to 47 degrees C.), and also that there are parallel and more important changes in the interior of the bean. The difficulty of establishing a complete theory of fermentation of cacao has not daunted the scientists, for they know that the roses of philosophy are gathered by just those who can grasp the thorniest problems. Success, however, is so far only partial, as can be seen by consulting the best introduction on the subject, the admirable collection of essays on The Fermentation of Cacao, edited by H. Hamel Smith. Here the reader will find the valuable contributions of Fickendey, Loew, Nicholls, Preyer, Schulte im Hofe, and Sack.

The obvious changes which occur in the breaking down of the fruity exterior of the bean should be carefully distinguished from the subtle changes in the bean itself. Let us consider them separately:—

(a) Changes in the Pulp.—Just as grape-pulp ferments and changes to wine, and just as weak wine if left exposed becomes sour; so the fruity sugary pulp outside the cacao bean on exposure gives off bubbles of carbon dioxide, becomes alcoholic, and later becomes acid. The acid produced is generally the pleasant vinegar acid (acetic acid), but under some circumstances it may be lactic acid, or the rancid-smelling butyric acid. Kismet! The planter trusts to nature to provide the right kind of fermentation. This fermentation is set up and carried on by the minute organisms (yeasts, bacteria, etc.), which chance to fall on the beans from the air or come from the sides of the receptacle. One yeast-cell does not make a fermentation, and as no yeast is added a day is wasted whilst any yeasts which happen to be present are multiplying to an army large enough to produce a visible effect on the pulp. Any organism which happens to be on the pod, in the air, or on the inside of the fermentary will multiply in the pulp, if the pulp contains suitable nourishment. Each kind of organism produces its own characteristic changes. It would thus appear a miracle if the same substances were always produced. Yet, just as grape-juice left exposed to every micro-organism of the air, generally changes in the direction of wine more or less good, so the pulp of cacao tends, broadly speaking, to ferment in one way. It would, however, be a serious error to assume that exactly the same kind of fermentation takes place in any two fermentaries in the world, and the maximum variation must be considerable. As the pulp ferments, it is destroyed; it gradually changes from white to brown, and a liquid ("sweatings") flows away from it. The "sweatings" taste like sweet cider. At present this is allowed to run away through holes in the bottom of the box, and no care is taken to preserve what may yet become a valuable by-product. I found by experiment that in the preparation of one cwt. of dry beans about 1-1/2 gallons of this unstable liquid are produced. In other words, some seven or eight million gallons of "sweatings" run to waste every year. In most cases only small quantities are produced in one place at one time. This, and the lack of knowledge of scientifically controlled fermentation, and the difficulty of bottling, prevent the starting of an industry producing either a new drink or a vinegar. The cacao juice or "sweatings" contains about fifteen per cent. of solids, about half of which consists of sugars. If the fermentation of the cacao were centralised in the various districts, and conducted on a large scale under a chemist's control, the sugars could be obtained, or an alcoholic liquid or a vinegar could easily be prepared.

The planter decides when the beans are fermented by simply looking at them; he judges their condition by the colour of the pulp. When they are ready to be removed from the fermentary they are plump, and brown without, and juicy within.

(b) Changes in the Interior of the Bean.—What is the relation between the comparatively simple fermentation of the pulp and the changes in the interior of the bean? This important question has not yet been answered, although a number of attempts have been made.

As far as is known, the living ferments (micro-organisms) do not penetrate the skin of the bean, so that any fermentation which takes place must be promoted by unorganised ferments (or enzymes). Mr. H.C. Brill[2] found raffinase, invertase, casease and protease in the pulp; oxidase, raffinase, casease and emulsinlike enzymes in the fresh bean; and all these six, together with diastase, in the fermented bean. Dr. Fickendey says: "The object of fermentation is, in the main, to kill the germ of the bean in such a manner that the efficiency of the unorganised ferment is in no way impaired."

[2] Philippine Journal of Science, 1917.

From my own observations I believe that forastero beans are killed at 47 degrees C. (which is commonly reached when they have been fermenting 60 hours), for a remarkable change takes place at this temperature and time. Whilst the micro-organisms remain outside, the juice of the pulp appears to penetrate not only the skin, but the flesh of the bean, and the brilliant violet in the isolated pigment cells becomes diffused more or less evenly throughout the entire bean, including the "germ." It is certain that the bean absorbs liquid from the outside, for it becomes so plump that its skin is stretched to the utmost. The following changes occur:

(1) Taste. An astringent colourless substance (a tannin or a body possessing many properties of a tannin) changes to a tasteless brown substance. The bean begins to taste less astringent as the "tannin" is destroyed. With white (criollo) beans this change is sufficiently advanced in two days, but with purple (forastero) beans it may take seven days.

(2) Colour. The change in the tannin results in the white (criollo) beans becoming brown and the purple (forastero) beans becoming tinged with brown. The action resembles the browning of a freshly-cut apple, and has been shown to be due to oxygen (activated by an oxidase, a ferment encouraging combination with oxygen) acting on the astringent colourless substance, which, like the photographic developer, pyrogallic acid, becomes brown on oxidation.

(3) Aroma. A notable change is that substances are created within the bean, which on roasting produce the fine aromatic odour characteristic of cocoa and chocolate, and which Messrs. Bainbridge and Davies have shown is due to a trace (0.001 per cent.) of an essential oil over half of which consists of linalool.[3]

(4) Stimulating Effect. It is commonly stated that during fermentation there is generated theobromine, the alkaloid which gives cacao its stimulating properties, but the estimation of theobromine in fermented and unfermented beans does not support this.

(5) Consistency. Fermented beans become crisp on drying. This development may be due to the "tannins" encountering, in their dispersion through the bean, proteins, which are thus converted into bodies which are brittle solids on drying (compare tanning of hides). The "hide" of the bean may be similarly "tanned"—the shell certainly becomes leathery (unless washed)—but a far more probable explanation, in both cases, is that the gummy bodies in bean and shell set hard on drying.

[3] Journal of the Chemical Society, 1912.

We see, then, that although fermentation was probably originally followed as the best method of getting rid of the pulp, it has other effects which are entirely good. It enables the planter to produce a drier bean, and one which has, when roasted, a finer flavour, colour, and aroma, than the unfermented. Fermentation is generally considered to produce so many desirable results that M. Perrot's suggestion[4] of removing the pulp by treatment with alkali, and thus avoiding fermentation, has not been enthusiastically received.

[4] Comptes Rendus, 1913.

Beans which have been dried direct and those which have been fermented may be distinguished as follows:



Shape of bean Flat Plumper Shell Soft and close fitting Crisp and more or less free. Interior: colour Slate-blue or mud-brown Bright browns and purples " consistence Leather to cheese Crisp " appearance Solid Open-grained " taste More or less bitter Less astringent or astringent

Whilst several effects of fermentation have not been satisfactorily accounted for, I think all are agreed that to obtain one of the chief effects of fermentation, namely the brown colour, oxidation is necessary. All recognise that for this oxidation the presence of three substances is essential:

(1) The tannin to be oxidised.

(2) Oxygen.

(3) An enzyme which encourages the oxidation.

All these occur in the cacao bean as it comes from the pod, but why oxidation occurs so much better in a fermented bean than in a bean which is simply dried is not very clear. If you cut an apple it goes brown owing to the action of oxygen absorbed from the air, but as long as the apple is uncut and unbruised it remains white. If you take a cacao bean from the pod and cut it, the exposed surface goes brown, but if you ferment the bean the whole of it gradually goes brown without being cut. My observations lead me to believe that the bean does not become oxidised until it is killed, that is, until it is no longer capable of germination. It can be killed by raising the temperature, by fermentation or otherwise, or as Dr. Fickendey has shown, by cooling to almost freezing temperatures. It may be that killing the bean makes its skin and cell walls more permeable to oxygen, but my theory is that when the bean is killed disintegration or weakening of the cell walls, etc., occurs, and, as a result, the enzyme and tannin, hitherto separate, become mixed, and hence able actively to absorb oxygen. The action of oxygen on the tannin also accounts for the loss of astringency on fermentation, and it may be well to point out that fermentation increases the internal surface of the bean exposed to air and oxygen. The bean, during fermentation, actually sucks in liquid from the surrounding pulp and becomes plumper and fuller. On drying, however, the skin, which has been expanded to its utmost, wrinkles up as the interior contracts and no longer fits tightly to the bean, and the cotyledons having been thrust apart by the liquid, no longer hold together so closely. This accounts for the open appearance of a fermented bean. As on drying large interspaces are produced, these allow the air to circulate more freely and expose a greater surface of the bean to the action of oxygen. Since the liquids in all living matter presumably contain some dissolved oxygen, the problem is to account for the fact that the tannin in the unfermented bean remains unoxidised, whilst that in the fermented bean is easily oxidised. The above affords a partial explanation, and seems fairly satisfactory when taken with my previous suggestion, namely, that during fermentation the bean is rendered pervious to water, which, on distributing itself throughout the bean, dissolves the isolated masses of tannin and diffuses it evenly, so that it encounters and becomes mixed with the enzymes. From this it will be evident that the major part of the oxidation of the tannin occurs during drying, and hence the importance of this, both from the point of view of the keeping properties of the cacao, and its colour, taste and aroma.

It will be realised from the above that there is still a vast amount of work to be done before the chemist will be in a position to obtain the more desirable aromas and flavours. Having found the necessary conditions, scientifically trained overseers will be required to produce them, and for this they will need to have under their direction arrangements for fermentation designed on correct principles and allowing some degree of control. Whilst improvements are always possible in the approach to perfection, it must be admitted that, considering the means at their disposal, the planters produce a remarkably fine product.

Loss on Fermenting and Drying.

The fermented cacao is conveyed from the fermentary to the drying trays or floors. The planter often has some rough check-weighing system. Thus, for example, he notes the number of standard baskets of wet cacao put into the fermentary, and he measures the fermented cacao produced with the help of a bottomless barrel. By this means he finds that on fermentation the beans lose weight by the draining away of the "sweatings," according to the amount and juiciness of the pulp round them. The beans are still very wet, and on drying lose a high percentage of their moisture by evaporation before the cacao bean of commerce is obtained.

The average losses may be tabulated thus:

Weight of wet cacao from pod 100 Loss on fermentation 20 to 25 Loss on drying 40 ———— Cacao beans of commerce obtained 35 to 40

The drying of cacao is an art. On the one hand it is necessary to get the beans quite dry (that is, in a condition in which they hold only their normal amount of water—5 to 7 per cent.) or they will be liable to go mouldy. On the other hand, the husk or shell of the bean must not be allowed to become burned or brittle. Brittle shells produce waste in packing and handling, and broken shells allow grubs and mould to enter the beans when the cacao is stored. The method of drying varies in different countries according to the climate. Jose says: "In the wet season when 'Father Sol' chooses to lie low behind the clouds for days and your cocoa house is full, your curing house full, your trees loaded, then is the time to put on his mettle the energetic and practical planter. In such tight corners, amigo, I have known a friend to set a fire under his cocoa house to keep the cocoa on the top somewhat warm. Another friend's plan (and he recommended it) was to address his patron saint on such occasions. He never addressed that saint at other times."

In most producing areas sun-drying is preferred, but in countries where much rain falls, artificial dryers are slowly but surely coming into vogue. These vary in pattern from simple heated rooms, with shelves, to vacuum stoves and revolving drums. The sellers of these machines will agree with me when I say that every progressive planter ought to have one of these artificial aids to use during those depressing periods when the rain continually streams from the sky. On fine days it is difficult to prevent mildew appearing on the cacao, but at such times it is impossible. However, whenever available, the sun's heat is preferable, for it encourages a slow and even drying, which lasts over a period of about three days. As Dr. Paul Preuss says: "II faut eviter une dessiccation trop rapide. Le cacao ne peut etre seche en moins de trois jours."[5] Further, most observers agree with Dr. Sack that the valuable changes, which occur during fermentation, continue during drying, especially those in which oxygen assists. The full advantage of these is lost if the temperature used is high enough to kill the enzymes, or if the drying is too rapid, both of which may occur with artificial drying.

[5] Dr. Paul Preuss, Le cacao. Culture et Preparation.

Sun-drying is done on cement or brick floors, on coir mats or trays, or on wooden platforms. In order to dry the cacao uniformly it is raked over and over in the sun. It must be tenderly treated, carefully "watched and caressed," until the interior becomes quite crisp and in colour a beautiful brown.

Sometimes the platforms are built on the top of the fermentaries, the cacao being conveyed through a hole in the roof of the fermentary to the drying platform.

[Illustration: "HAMEL-SMITH" ROTARY DRYER. (Made by Messrs. David Bridge and Co., Manchester).

The receiving cylinders, six in number, are filled approximately three-quarters full with the cacao to be dried. These are then placed in position on the revolving framework, which is enclosed in the casing and slowly revolved. The cylinders are fitted with baffle plates, which gently turn over the cacao beans at each revolution so that even drying throughout is the result. The casing is heated to the requisite temperature by means of a special stove, the arrangement of which is such as to allow the air drawn from the outside to circulate around the stove and to pass into the interior of the casing containing the drying cylinders. The fumes from the fuel do not in any way come in contact with the material during drying.]

In Trinidad the platform always has a sliding roof, which can be pulled over the cacao in the blaze of noon or when a rainstorm comes on. In other places, sliding platforms are used which can be pushed under cover in wet weather.

The Washing of Cacao.

In Java, Ceylon and Madagascar before the cacao is dried, it is first washed to remove all traces of pulp. This removal of pulp enables the beans to be more rapidly dried, and is considered almost a necessity in Ceylon, where sun-drying is difficult. The practice appears at first sight wholly good and sanitary, but although beans so treated have a very clean and bright appearance, looking not unlike almonds, the practice cannot be recommended. There is a loss of from 2 to 10 per cent. in weight, which is a disadvantage to the planter, whilst from the manufacturer's point of view, washing is objectionable because, according to Dr. Paul Preuss, the aroma suffers. Whilst this may be questioned, there is no doubt that washing renders the shells more brittle and friable, and less able to bear carriage and handling; and when the shell is broken, the cacao is more liable to attack by grubs and mould. Therein lies the chief danger of washing.

Claying, Colouring, and Polishing Cacao.

Just as in Java and Ceylon, to assist drying, they wash off the pulp, so in Venezuela and often in Trinidad, with the same object, they put earth or clay on the beans. In Venezuela it is a heavy, rough coat, and in Trinidad a film so thin that usually it is not visible. In Venezuela, where fermentation is often only allowed to proceed for one day, the use of fine red earth may possibly be of value. It certainly gives the beans a very pretty appearance; they look as though they have been moistened and rolled in cocoa powder. But in Trinidad, where the fermentation is a lengthy one, the use of clay, though hallowed by custom, is quite unnecessary. In the report of the Commission of Enquiry (Trinidad, 1915) we read concerning claying that "It is said to prevent the bean from becoming mouldy in wet weather, to improve its marketable value by giving it a bright and uniform appearance, and to help to preserve its aroma." In the appendix to this report the following recommendation occurs: "The claying of cacao ought to be avoided as much as possible, and when necessary only sufficient to give a uniform colour ought to be used." In my opinion manufacturers would do well to discourage entirely the claying of cacao either in Trinidad or Venezuela, for from their point of view it has nothing to recommend it. One per cent. of clay is sufficient to give a uniform colour, but occasionally considerably more than this is used. If we are to believe reports, deliberate adulteration is sometimes practised. Thus in How Jose formed his Cocoa Estate we read: "A cocoa dealer of our day to give a uniform colour to the miscellaneous brands he has purchased from Pedro, Dick, or Sammy will wash the beans in a heap, with a mixture of starch, sour oranges, gum arabic and red ochre. This mixture is always boiled. I can recommend the 'Chinos' in this dodge, who are all adepts in all sorts of 'adulteration' schemes. They even add some grease to this mixture so as to give the beans that brilliant gloss which you see sometimes." In Trinidad the usual way of obtaining a gloss is by the curious operation known as "dancing," which is performed on the moistened beans after the clay has been sprinkled on them. It is a quaint sight to see a circle of seven or eight coloured folk slowly treading a heap of beans. The dancing may proceed for any period up to an hour, and as they tread they sing some weird native chant. Somewhat impressed, I remarked to the planter that it had all the appearance of an incantation. He replied that the process cost 2d. per cwt. Dancing makes the beans look smooth, shiny, and even, and it separates any beans that may be stuck together in clusters. It may make the beans rounder, and it is said to improve their keeping properties, but this remains to be proved. On the whole, if it is considered desirable to produce a glossy appearance, it is better to use a polishing machine.

The Weight of the Cured Cacao Bean.

Planters and others may be interested to know the comparative sizes of the beans from the various producing areas of the world. Some idea of these can be gained by considering the relative weights of the beans as purchased in England.

Average weight Number of Beans Kind. of one Bean. to the lb.

Grenada 1.0 grammes 450 Para 1.0 " 450 Bahia 1.1 " 410 Accra 1.2 " 380 Trinidad 1.2 " 380 Cameroons 1.2 " 380 Ceylon 1.2 " 380 Caracas 1.3 " 350 Machala 1.4 " 330 Arriba 1.5 " 300 Carupano 1.6 " 280

The Yield of the Cacao Tree.

The average yield of cacao has in the past generally been over-stated. Whether this is because the planter is an optimist or because he wishes others to think his efforts are crowned with exceptional success, or because he takes a simple pride in his district, is hard to tell. Probably the tendency has been to take the finer estates and put their results down as the average.

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