Planting, Growing & Harvesting
São Tomé and Príncipe is situated in a temperate zone, influenced by the passage of the Greenwich meridian and the equator. We chose to grow the authentic cocoa varieties imported from South America: Amelonado, Trinitario and Forastero. These are three varieties that produce very little. No hybrids or genetically modified organisms (GMO).
We planted around 1,100 trees per hectare (2.5 acres), to not overcrowd each tree. It gives us a cocoa bean that is larger then usually, nothing like any classic bean.
The production of cocoa can be compared to a grape vineyard, but unlike the vine, cocoa does not react well to chemical treatments. There is no “shortcut” with cacao. It takes five years, on average, to grow a cocoa tree. It is a very precise and delicate crop whose production can vary from simple to double. It needs water, but not too much.
Jean-Rémy Martin (Chairman of Kennyson Group)
Since 2014, we have been carrying out an ambitious replanting program. Each of the varieties must be well identified and tagged on each parcel. This is done so we can guarantee full traceability of every tree and follow-up with an approved quality control.
On the plantation, cocoa beans grow in pods that sprout off the trunk and branches of cocoa trees. Our experienced collaborators have manually harvest them in the forest. The seed pods of cocoa are then carefully selected and collected. The realization of a chocolate bar is punctuated by many steps. Every step if not done properly can compromise the quality of our chocolate. That’s why we are surrounded by qualified personnel to offer high quality chocolate.
Harvesting pods is a very delicate first step: machines could damage the bark of the tree or the floral cushion on which the future crop depends. Our staff harvest each pod by hand using short hooked blades mounted on long poles to reach the highest fruits. The pods, stored in large baskets, are opened to separate by hand the cocoa beans from the white pulp (called placenta or mucilage).
It stops the sprouting and improves fruit preservation, chocolate flavors depend on the precursors born during fermentation. The beans are placed on large trays and heated by the sun. They are brewed periodically to be perfectly fermented. This process takes 5 to 8 days and ends when the beans turn brown.
After fermentation, the cocoa seeds must be dried, for that we use covered drying tables at the plantation. The drying process usually takes about a week, the seeds, then lose half their weight. They can then be scooped into sacks and shipped to our factory.
At this point our on site chocolate maker and production manager, Filipe de Almeida Santos and his team at the factory take over. The roasting process is what develops the colour and flavour of the beans into what our modern palates expect from chocolate. Controlling this step is a crucial aspect to bring out the full flavors of the cocoa bean. We have invested heavily in top of the range material. The technology enables us to manage each parameter with infinite accuracy. The chocolate industry has a tendency to “over burn” the seeds to homogenize the flavour and simplify mass production. On the opposite side, we’re always looking for the perfect roasting technique, each batch should be tailor-made to bring out the best flavors in our precious cocoa. Even when it means sometimes to not roast them at all.
The outer shell of the beans is removed, and the inner cocoa bean meat is broken into small pieces called “cocoa nibs”. The roasting process makes the shells of the cocoa brittle, and cocoa nibs pass through a series of sieves, which strain and sort the nibs according to size in a process called “ winnowing”.
The grinding process generates heat and the dry granular consistency of the cocoa nib is then turned into a liquid as the high amount of fat contained in the nib melts. The cocoa liquor is mixed with cocoa butter and sugar. This “assemblage“ is refined until obtaining the perfect smoothness and balance.
The liquid hot and flavorful chocolate is then poured into the tempering machines, in order to stabilize it. It’s then up to Filipe and his team to mold and pack the final delicious chocolate bars that are presented in our offer