The main cacao harvest season in the Philippines is between November to February. Fully ripened pods are carefully harvested from trees. The wet beans are extracted from the pods and collected on the same day for fermentation.
The wet beans are transferred into wooden boxes that allow drainage of pulp and passage of air. This is a key process in unlocking the maximum flavor potential of the beans. Fermentation normally lasts between 4 to 6 days depending on the variety of cacao and environment.
The fermented beans are placed on solar dryers to reduce the moisture from 60% to around 7.5%. This is done slowly and naturally between 5 to 7 days to allow volatile acids present in the beans to evaporate while preventing mold growth.
The beans are sorted by size through sifting to better ensure even roasting. The beans also undergo thorough checking to ensure quality and absence of extraneous materials.
The sorted beans are roasted to eliminate bacteria, reduce moisture, and loosen the beans from their outer shell. More importantly, roasting enhances inherent flavors in the beans.
The roasted beans are then broken into smaller pieces and winnowed to separate the outer shells from the nibs.
The nibs are finely ground in two stages to release the cacao butter from the nibs. This results in a paste-like substance called cacao liquor or cacao mass.