Making cocoa in Mekong Delta

By Di Vy   October 30, 2019 | 11:54 am GMT+7

A family in Can Tho City has been growing cacao for 59 years and producing cocoa and chocolate from it.

Cacao tree is between 4-8 m high and grows well under the shade of other trees so it is often intercropped under trees like coconut and rubber. Ripe cacao fruits are either yellow, orange, or red.Without cacao beans, comfort but nutritious food that are favorites to many won’t exist, including chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter.

Cacao trees are 4-8 m tall and grow well under the shade of other trees, and so are often intercropped with coconut and rubber. Ripe cacao fruits are yellow, orange or red. Its seeds yield comfort foods like chocolate and cocoa butter.

Since he grew the first cacao beans and sold them in the 1960s, the cacao plant of Lam The Cuong who’s also known by his nickname Muoi Cuong is well-known in Phong Dien district, Can Tho City. Currently his cacao garden covers an area of more than 1.2 hectares with more than 2,000 trees.Minh Quan (picture), Muoi Cuong’s son, said while the cacao production is for export, the family’s garden serves many tourists. The current process of making the cocoa in the family is all manual, Quan said.

Since he first grew cacao and sold the beans in the 1960s, the processing plant run by Lam The Cuong, also known by his nickname Muoi Cuong, is well-known in Phong Dien District, Can Tho City. His 1.2-hectare Muoi Cuong cacao garden has more than 2,000 trees.

Minh Quan (pictured), Muoi Cuong’s son, said, "The process of making cocoa in the family is all manual."

After old cacao fruits are harvested, the farmers will put them in a box and cover the top for one to two days so the fruits acclimate. Then their covers are spilled.

After harvesting ripe cacao pods, the farmers put them in a box and cover it for a day or two for the fruits to acclimate. Then their husk is removed.

The cacao fruit is halved, revealing the white pulp which tastes sour. It turns bitter after being processed.The fruit inside will continue to be incubated for six to seven days. The white pulp will start to ferment and detach from the meat and reveal the cacao pods which has the beans inside.The fermentation process is very important for the seeds to come out with quality, according to Quan.

The cacao fruit has white pulp which tastes sour. It turns bitter after being processed. The pulp is incubated for six to seven days after which the fermented pulp detaches from the beans inside. The fermentation process is very important to ensure the seeds' quality, according to Quan.

After the fermentation, the cacao beans turn brown. The seeds then dried outdoors.

After the fermentation, the beans turn brown. They are dried in the sun.

On shady or rainy days, the family has to use cast iron pots to roast the seeds. The seeds have to be really dry otherwise we can’t use them, he said.

On cloudy days, the family has to use cast iron pots to roast the seeds. "The seeds have to be really dry otherwise we can’t use them," Quan said.

What follows is the cracking of the seed. This stage takes a lot of effort and patience. In the past, the workers used hands to peel off the crust, but nowadays they switched to mortars to ensure the planned quantity.The stone mortar used to grind rice flour has been designed by Quans family for the purpose. The mortar causes the beans to split in two or three pieces. The pieces are then transferred onto a flat bamboo basket which is shaken until the covers of the bean pieces fall out.

What follows is the cracking of the dry seeds. This takes a lot of effort and patience. In the past the workers used their hands to shell the seeds, but nowadays they have switched to mortars.

A stone mortar used to grind rice has been redesigned by Quan's family for the purpose. The mortar causes the beans to split into two or three pieces. They are then transferred to a flat bamboo basket and placed in front of electric fans to shake of the shell.

To make cocoa, the workers crush the seeds using a heated mortar and pestle until they get a smooth mixture.

To make cocoa, the workers crush the seeds using a heated mortar and pestle until they get a smooth mixture.

Many families with a cacao planting business in the Mekong Delta are losing interest in the tree, as its output and selling prices are not stable. But Quans family doesn’t think they will stop the business anytime soon.Although the quantity produced for sale is not much, the job helps my familys finances, Quan said while gathering the dried beans.

Many families growing cacao in the Mekong Delta are losing interest in the crop since its output and prices are not consistent. But Quan's family does not think it will stop anytime soon.

"Although the quantity produced is not much, it helps my family's finances," Quan said while gathering the dried beans.

Cocoa powder mixed with boiling water and a dash of sugar or condensed milk turns into a delicious drink. Ice cubes are recommended if it is a hot day.

Cocoa powder mixed with boiling water and a dash of sugar or condensed milk turns into a delicious drink. Ice cubes are recommended if it is a hot day.

Muoi Cuong cacao garden currently attracts a few dozen visitors every day, the majority of them are foreigners. Visitors can come to the garden between 7 am and 12 pm every day. It offers a variety of familiar products made from cacao beans like powder, candy, chocolate bars, and cacao juices.

The Muoi Cuong cacao garden attracts a few dozen visitors every day, the majority of them foreigners, between 7 a.m. and noon every day. They come to see the processing of the cacao and buy cocoa, chocolate and cacao juice.

 
 
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