for the love of chocolate

chocolate c.1600, from Nahuatl xocolatl, from xococ “bitter” + atl “water.” Brought to Spain by 1520, from thence to the rest of Europe. Originally a drink; as a paste or cake made of ground, roasted cacao seeds, 1640s.

Just the simple mention of chocolate and my mouth starts to water.  Make it dark chocolate at more than 85% cacao content, and it’s like a little piece of heaven opens up revealing bliss and spiritual contentment.  Marry chocolate to cake and then I will be putty in your hands (OK… only if it’s egg-less, but you get the idea!)

Chocolate rocks!

Did you know that Cameroon is the fifth largest grower of cacao beans in the world?  In the 2009-2010 season, Cameroon produced around 200,000 tons of cacao beans, exporting 80% of it chocolate-obsessed nations elsewhere in the world.  This leaves the local market to very little supply of the high-quality beans that create the yummy chocolate I crave so often, but I digress.


cacao growing wild


While there are cacao plantations in various areas of the south and west, sometimes the beans seem to grow wild.  Imagine that!  A wild crop.  A little piece of heaven with no accessibility issues.  Ok… maybe not, but still, how great is that?

A few weeks ago we took a day out (well, two days as it were) to visit the gorilla sanctuary outside of Yaoundé.  While trekking in the woods in between gorilla enclosures, our guide plucked a cacao pod from a tree and introduced us to the glory that is a fresh cacao bean.

Inside what looks like a small yellow or red football not much larger than your hand, the cacao beans are smothered in white, fruity, gooey goo.  Sucking on this sweet stuff was an unexpected pleasure.  Not chocolaty at all, really.  Just sweet and gooey.


cacao pod guts = yummy goo


Once one has polished off all the goo, the cacao bean is revealed.  Dried in the Cameroonian sun until ready for roasting, transformation is complete. Goo gives way to bean and bean eventually becomes chocolate.


naked cacao beans


The rest of the process is still a mystery though we hope to somehow, sometime, learn how a bean becomes a chocolate bar.  “For the love of chocolate”, I say “inquiring minds want to know.  And taste.  Repeatedly.”

NB.  I still dream about rolling around in the cacao beans drying on the side of the road on the way to Bamenda… but have yet to convince drivers to stop and allow me this one little indulgence.  Big meanies!


Greg's cacao moment


~ by Caroline Spira on October 8, 2010.

7 Responses to “for the love of chocolate”

  1. What does a bean taste like?

    • Dunno. The beans can’t decide whether they will dry nicely or become moldy (like everything else in the house at the moment). We’ll just have to assume, if you will, that the beans taste like un-roasted cacao. But do hope to somehow find out for sure… with non-moldy beans.

  2. a friend brought four huge boxes of chocolate (with and without hazelnuts) from norway to maputo today. will eat a hundred grams in your honour.. :p

  3. Too bad we can’t mail chocolates to you. Undoubtedly, by the time they would arrive they’d turn to mush

    • Its the thought that counts… and the promise of future opportunities for indulgence, perhaps?

  4. p.s. The cacao bean guts look rather disgusting !

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