Sunday, November 24, 2013

My own Bean-to-Bar chocolate making experience

Finally my own  bean-to-bar chocolate experience was such a fulfilling experience. I am so thankful to Ms. Mely for the cacao from Aurora Province.

I have posted here my very first time of  tasting raw cacao last August.

Then my experiment of fermenting with the post below:

As well as growing cacao seedling from the beans being fermented:

Some of the seedlings were brought to Ilocos already, hoping some of them survive, grow and bear fruits, after two - three years.

Well, the fermented and dried beans would be categorized slaty or moldy since it was my first time to experiment fermenting at home. Fotos shown below of cacao beans exposed for drying after a week of fermenting.

But I am happy with the turn out. The aroma when it was baked and roasted was wonderful, my nieces and nephew thought it was coffee, indeed there was a resemblance of  a coffee smell.

Blend/grind brown sugar until it became powdery and then mixed with the roasted cacao nibs until the cocoa butter started to appear. Well the blender was not up to making it more fluid. So with the still granulated mixture we made our chocolate drink. With boiled water, evaporated milk and some more sugar - a chocolate drink that everyone enjoyed!

baked to remove the skin and then toasted

first grinding

2nd-3rd grinding of cacao

with sugar mix, notice cacao butter in the mix

final output

hot choco from the pan, cocoa butter on top

nephew enjoying a cup of his choco drink

nieces enjoying a sip of hot choco drink 

Home made chocolate bar

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chocolate Event at the Dept of Foreign Affairs

The Coming of Age of Philippine Chocolate

13 November 2013 - The Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Office of the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, will be holding an event to launch Philippine artisan chocolates on November 14.   Chocolates have always been part of Philippine cuisine.  The Philippines also produces cacao, a vital ingredient in the production of chocolate. 

According to “Historia de Filipinas,” by P. Fr. Gaspar de S. Augustin, cacao plants were first brought here in the year 1670 by a pilot named Pedro Brabo, of Laguna Province, who gave them to a priest of the Camarines named Bartolome Brabo. Since then, chocolate has been part of the Philippine culinary tradition.

The Philippines currently produces 10,000 metric tons (MT) of cacao beans per year.   Seventy-five (75%) percent of these come from Southern Mindanao, which has over 13,000 hectares planted with cacao.  The country exports $6 million-worth of raw cacao beans, but it imports $100 million-worth of fermented beans from other cocoa producers. Fermented cacao beans give the real chocolate taste and texture needed to produce chocolate.  
The national government is endorsing a target set by key stakeholders to increase the cacao crop to 100,000 MT per year by 2020 and has included the cacao as part of its National Greening Program, an initiative to reforest the country. According to Euromonitor International, the Philippines chocolate market is forecast to grow 13% by 2017 to $306.3m.
In holding this event, OUIER aims to reintroduce the artistry behind the production of handmade Philippine gourmet chocolates, wherein a huge industry will be positively affected, from the agricultural industry (sugar, mango, peanuts, cashews, and coconut) and the handicraft industries (weaving, buri making) for the packaging.  Our partner in the event, Ralfe Artisan Chocolates is headed by Ms. Raquel Choa, a Tablea Connoisseur. She brings with her a long tradition of preparing tablea, from planting, picking, roasting, to grinding.  While the Philippines was once only an exporter of cacao beans, we are breaking new ground by exporting Philippine gourmet chocolates to foreign markets.  Ralfe has already exported 1 ton of its gourmet chocolates to China.  It has also been providing Tablea to Vancouver’s gourmet stores and are in talks with Singapore and Germany.  The future looks bright.
Tsokolate has always been a part of Philippine life, from tsokolate eh, tsokolate ah and champorado.  In elevating the Philippine chocolate, we know that we can compete with the finest gourmet chocolates and that the connoisseurs will take notice that the Philippine chocolate has come of age. END

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Intercropping coconut with cacao

From the The 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) Technical Report

The reliance of the coconut industry on copra for livelihood (170) is one of the reasons cited for the poverty among coconut farmers as gross income from this is only P20,000 per year. To help raise the income and productivity of coconut farmers, the government, through the Philippine Coconut Authority, is currently implementing coconut intercropping as a livelihood intervention under the Kasaganaan sa Niyugan ay Kaunlaran ng Bayan (KAANIB) Program’s Enterprise Development Project (EDP).(171) Coconut intercropping involves the planting of high-value crops in available spaces under coconut trees. (172)

In 2012, 90 KAANIB EDP sites have been established, benefiting 10,000 farmers. Around 5,500 ha of coconut farms were intercropped with cacao,(173) coffee, (174) banana,(175) pineapple, rambutan, durian, and citrus fruits. For 2013, an additional 434 sites benefiting more than 30,000 coconut farmers will be developed, of which 300 sites (15,000 ha) will be intercropped with coffee.

170 About 70 percent (2.45 million ha) of the coconut farms are monocropped. This means that most of the coconut farms have not yet been maximized to augment the income of the farmers.
171 KAANIB Program is a set of interventions (e.g., replanting, introduction of crops and livestock diversification) which aims to increase productivity in small coconut farms.
172 Priority intercrops under the project include coffee, cacao, banana, pineapple and corn. Aside from intercrops, livestock raising (e.g., goat and cattle) under the coconut trees is also considered an option to raise the productivity of the farm.
173 Intercropping coconut with cacao is estimated to yield gross income of P89,000/ha/year.
174 Intercropping coconut with coffee is estimated to yield gross income of P172,400/ha/year.
175 Intercropping coconut with banana is estimated to yield gross income of P102,325/ha/year.

Links -

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ecuador chocolate-focused tour

Below is my dream tour to Ecuador definitely chocolate plantation would be one of the places I would like to visit. This one is a high priority in my bucket list. Dreaming of Latin American tour but with cocoa/chocolate twist hmmmm....

Original source for the post below -


Join Jeffrey Stern on an exciting chocolate-focused tour. April and May are prime harvest months for cacao in Ecuador. While there can be some rain, it´s always warm and harvest activities are at their peak during these months.
Get to know Ecuador’s chocolate and cocoa industry firsthand, while also learning about Ecuador and the splendid colonial part of Quito. Jeff Stern is the owner of Gianduja Chocolates in Quito, Ecuador and will be our tour leader. He has lived and worked in Ecuador in the chocolate and cocoa business for the past 7 years and knows the ins and outs of the cocoa industry on the ground in Ecuador. He is a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine culinary school in Gaithersburg, MD and has worked in the culinary industry for over ten years.  He also holds BA from New York University in Latin American Studies and an M.Sc. from UT Austin. He is fluent in Spanish.

Read on or call us on 858 222 0332 for more information and to speak directly with Jeff Stern.

Saturday, April12-Saturday, April 19, 2014

Registration Deadline Closes February 7, 2014

This tour includes the itinerary described below. However, Ruth Kennison will not accompany us on this tour.

Saturday, May 10-Saturday May 17, 2013

Registration Deadline Closes March 15, 2014

This program is delivered in English.
Day 1 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Pick up from airport prior evening. Transfer to hotel located in the Old Colonial Downtown in Quito. After checking in and a quick rest we will head towards the Middle of the World Monument, and on our way we will have lunch at a restaurant located inside an extinct volcano.
After lunch we will enter the Monument and visit the famous ethnographic museum which will introduce you to the different indigenous tribes and cultures of Ecuador. We also have the opportunity to stand on the Equatorial line and take a picture with one foot in the Southern hemisphere and the other one in the Northern hemisphere. Walk through the town they have created here to get some souvenirs or have some coffee or a snack. Finally we will visit the Intiñam Museum, where you will be fascinated by the experiments they run (with our help) to prove that you are located at 0 latitude. Drive back to Quito for dinner and rest of the evening to rest.
An early dinner will be the great opportunity to have an introduction/overview of the tour, by our tour leader.
Day 2 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
After breakfast we will travel to the Amazon region in Ecuador (4 hours drive). We will cross the Andes and admire the beautiful change in vegetation between the 2 regions (7 different climates). Arrive to Huasquila Amazon Lodge at lunch time. Before we take you to your bungalow, let us invite you an Amazon cocktail and give you a short briefing on Huasquila and its surroundings. You will be delighted by our bamboo’s dining hall with open views and typical decoration. When you are ready we will take you to your bungalow, built by local people in kichwa style and in harmony with nature. The bungalows are equipped with all facilities and you can rest a little or just enjoy the view of the Amazon from your hammock. After lunch you can enjoy a quick visit to an animal rescue center and/or stay at the lodge´s pool and enjoy the afternoon.
Day 3 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
After breakfast we will travel to a local indigenous community, where local farmers that belong to KALLARI Association will host us and show us their cocoa plants, how they work in their farm, try some of their specialities such as chicha, and interact with them. To reach these communities we will have to take a boat through some of the Amazon rivers, and we will always have KALLARI staff joining us at all times, to explain how they coordinate and work with its members. At the end of the day we will drive back to Huasquila for dinner and a well deserved rest.pictwo
Day 4 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
After breakfast we will visit the city of Tena, from where we will travel to the Collection of Cocoa Center operated by KALLARI. Here we will learn the process of how the Center operates, meet their staff and learn the most interesting facts about KALLARI. We will also spend part of the afternoon visiting with this fascinating organization. Rest of the afternoon will be spend at Huasquila Lodge.
Day 5 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Today we will discover the Amazon region rafting down its rivers. It is an amazing experience with full safety precautions. We will be in the river for approximately 4 hours, surrounded by flora and fauna. We will have lunch rest stop on the river and then continue our raft down to the Napo river (biggest affluence of the Amazonas river). At the end of the rafting, we will visit the city of Tena, to have time to experience the atmosphere of this town, interact with the locals and see get to know a bit more of the culture. Dinner at Huasquila, and rest of the evening to relax.
Day 6 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
After breakfast we will start our journey back to Quito. Arrive to Quito for lunch. We will check in the hotel and have some time to relax. We will also have an afternoon chocolate tasting at the Gianduja Chocolate workshop, with the owner Jeff Stern who is also one of our tour leaders.
Day 7 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Today we will visit the Ecuatoriana de Chocolates factory, to see first hand large-scale chocolate production and discuss their operations and the social and economic aspects of the chocolate industry. After lunch we visit colonial downtown where we will walk through the biggest and most well-preserved colonial center in South America (declared World Heritage by UNESCO). We will go visit centuries old colonial downtown and its famous churches, and learn the most interesting facts about each location we will visit. We will finish the tour by visiting the Panecillo Hill, where we will have an overview of the whole colonial downtown. Guest can leave on day 9, or there is the opportunity to do an extension to the Galapagos Islands.
Day 8 (includes breakfast)
Departure day for some clients OR beginning of Galapagos extension. Please contact us directly if you are interested in a Galapagos or other extension, and you can work directly with our tour operator in Ecuador for any necessary arrangements.
Please note, appropriate age for this tour is 16 yrs. and up.
 PER PERSON US$ 1,950 (regular program 8 days)
Single supplement $200 additional
The price includes:
  • All tours and activities specified in program
  • Accommodations specified in program
  • All entrance fees during tours and activities specified in program
  • All meals specified in program
  • Private transportation
The price does not include:
  • International airfares and airport taxes
  • Any expenses not specified in program (personal expenses, alcoholic beverages, souvenirs, laundry, etc)
  • Equipment rental or supply (if necessary)
  • Personal insurance
  • Any medical expenses

Monday, October 21, 2013


The source of this manual was fro the site of Malagos Chocolate here -


The following manual is based on preferred or best nursery practices, developed for
SUCCESS Alliance in Asia. These practices will be relevant to many countries according
to available materials, resources and budgets. This current manual draws heavily from
the Cocoa Nursery Manual of SUCCESS Alliance Vietnam, September 2007, but with
modifications for the conditions and practices as used in the Philippines. It will be used
to guide cocoa plant production under the CoCoPAL Program funded by the USDA. It is
intended to update it regularly, as new data and practices are uncovered.


ACDI VOCA wishes to acknowledge the contributions of a wide range of people who have worked in cacao nursery development and extension in South East Asia. Their contributions have been in developing best practices, developing new techniques, introducing new materials and technologies, developing extension and training materials and programs, relating to cocoa plant production.

These people and groups include:

Mr David Lim, Malaysia, Consultant with World Cocoa Foundation

Huynh Van Thanh, Nursery Coordinator, SUCCESS Alliance Viet Nam
Dr Pham Hong Duc Phuoc , Viet Nam, Nong Lam University Cocoa Leader

Nursery operators in Ben Tre, Tien Giang, Binh Phuoc and Ba Ria Vung Tau Provinces of Viet Nam.

SUCCESS Alliance staff in Viet Nam and the Philippines

Mr Peter Cruz and staff of the MARS Cocoa Development Centre, Philippines

Nursery Operators Mindanao, Philippines.

CoCoPAL Staff Philippines

Nicholas Richards
Chief of Party, ACDI/VOCA Philippines

Cocoa Nursery Manual Philippines June 2011. © ACDI/VOCA

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ralfe Gourmet, wealth in chocolate biz

Ralfe Gourmet was featured in an online article by Click the link to read the entirety of the article. I made some excerpt of the article. Check also their FB link below to get update.

How a former kasambahay got rich with chocolate
by Vincent Paul A. Garcia,
Posted at 08/10/2013 2:07 PM | Updated as of 08/20/2013 6:42 PM
MANILA, Philippines -
Instead of lady luck blessing her with a golden ticket to her own chocolate factory, Raquel Choa, a former "kasambahay", built hers from scratch. Read more -

But today, Ralfe Gourmet uses around a thousand kilos of cacao beans every month and makes over 5,000 different kinds of chocolate that includes alfajores, tablea rice crispies, chocolate sticks, and tablea singles.
Ralfe Gourmet also supplies chocolate to various high-end local hotels, resorts and airports throughout the country.
With the success of Ralfe, Choa managed, along with her husband, to buy 33 hectares of cacao plantation at Cebu. Ralfe, today, makes around P200,000 per month.

Check their FB page here -

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Transport of cacao

Another interesting find on the internet about cacao. The original source of the article below is from this site: 

Cocoa/Cocoa beans

Table of contents

Product information
 Container transport
 Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
VentilationMechanical influences
Biotic activityToxicity / Hazards to health
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustionInsect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

GermanKakaobohnen (Rohkakao)
EnglishCocoa beans (raw cocoa)
FrenchCacao en fèves
SpanishCacao en grano
ScientificTheobroma cacao
CN/HS number *1801 00 00

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Cocoa beans are the seeds, contained in a cucumber-like fruit, of the cacao tree, a member of the Sterculiaceae family. The flowers/fruit are borne directly on the trunk (cauliflory) and on thick branches (ramiflory). The yellowish, reddish to brownish fruits (botanically speaking, berries), which are of similar appearance to cucumbers, are divided into five longitudinal compartments, each containing up to 10 seeds (cocoa beans). As the fruits approach ripeness, the partitions break down and the seeds are located around the central funicle in a whitish pulp with a sweet/sour flavor.

The cocoa bean consists of the seed coat which encloses the cocoa kernel and almost solely consists of the two folded cotyledons, and the radicle. The cocoa kernel is the principal component for the production of cocoa products.

Two subtypes are distinguished:

High-grade, criollo cocoa: the beans are large, roundish and brown in color. They have a delicately bitter, aromatic flavor and are easily processed.
Forastero or common grade cocoa: the beans are smaller than criollo cocoa beans, flattened on the side, have a dark reddish-brown to violet color and a sharper flavor. Forastero cocoa beans account for around 90% of the world's cocoa harvest.

The main zones of cultivation of the tropical cacao tree fall within a band 10° north and south of the equator. Central Africa produces approx. 75% of the world's forastero cocoa harvest, while criollo cocoa is primarily shipped from Central America (Venezuela, Ecuador) and from Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Due to its high content of fat (cocoa butter), protein and carbohydrates, cocoa has a high nutritional value. Since cocoa contains only small amounts of substances such as theobromine (1 - 2%) and caffeine (0.2%), consuming it has no harmful side-effects.

In order to moderate the initially bitter flavor of cocoa and to develop the flavor typical of cocoa, the beans must be subjected to a fermentation process during which the highly bitter tannins present in the beans are oxidized, resulting in the formation of aromatic substances and the development of the typical brown to deep red-brown color of cocoa. As a result of the heat associated with fermentation, the cocoa beans lose their ability to germinate.

This process is performed after harvesting by heaping cocoa beans in layers in troughs, concrete pits or fermenting tanks.

Fermentation process

Figure 1

Quality / Duration of storage

The quality of cocoa products (e.g. cocoa powder for beverages) is primarily determined by the quality of the raw cocoa.

Fully ripened and correctly fermented cocoa beans are thus of a brown to dark red color and have a very fragile kernel with a pure, bitter flavor.

Apart from exhibiting the appearance and odor characteristic of their variety, perfect beans must be undamaged and ungerminated, must include no foreign matter or mold and must not be infested with insects or have suffered wetting damage. They must not smell sour, musty or smoky.

Poorly fermented cocoa beans are purple in color when underfermented or very dark in color when overfermented. They also have a slaty to solid kernel and an astringent (mouth-puckering) flavor. The core may have changed to a violet to yellowish white color. The excessive heating which occurs in overfermentation also results in butyric acid fermentation, which impairs quality.

In [1], the quality of cocoa beans is assessed according to the following criteria:

Good qualities:

fully ripe, correctly fermented
firm beans of uniform size with a dry weight of no less than 1 g
loose and undamaged shell
light to dark reddish-brown color
readily crumbled, highly fragile kernel

Bad qualities:

unripe and poorly fermented
moldy cocoa beans
strong violet color as a result of underfermentation; purple color when overfermented
slaty and firm kernel as a result of underfermentation
insect infested cocoa beans
flat, unripe, small and broken cocoa beans
germinated cocoa beans
ham-like odor due to overfermentation
smoky odor due to excessively long drying

The product should be shipped shortly after harvest, as extended storage (> 6 months) may result in losses due to the high relative humidities in the tropics.

Intended use

For the production of cocoa powder and further processing into beverages, chocolates and desserts.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Cacao tree

Figure 2
Cacao tree

Figure 3

Figure 4
Cocoa bean

Figure 5

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

AfricaIvory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, other West African coastal countries
AsiaMalaysia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Java, Samoa, Philippines
AmericaBrazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico

Back to beginning


In bags of jute or sisal usually of a (gross) weight of 60 - 65 kg, rarely of up to 100 kg. New or high quality bags should be used due to the high value of the cargo.

Back to beginning



Symbol, general cargo

General cargo
Symbol, temperature-controlled

Bulk cargo

Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Transport of bagged cargo in ventilated containers (coffee containers) is possible subject to compliance with lower limits for the water content of goods, packaging and flooring. The wooden flooring of the containers must be absolutely clean and dry. If it has been washed, it must have dried completely. Water content should be 12%, corresponding to a lumber equilibrium moisture content of 70%, so that the flooring does not constitute an additional source of water vapor to dampen the cocoa cargo and container atmosphere.

The cargo may be covered with paper which readily absorbs any moisture to provide protection from moisture damage.

Given the high value of a fully loaded cocoa container, a two-layer anticondensation film or nonwoven should be used to provide protection against dripping sweat.


Figure 6

Cocoa beans are also transported in standard containers using big bags or liner bags.

Alternatively, cocoa beans may also be transported on flatracks in ventilated holds. This approach is a cost-effective alternative to the costly ventilated containers, which are the ideal way to transport cocoa beans.

Cargo handling

Hooks must not be used in cargo handling as they subject the cargo to point loads, so damaging the bags. Due to their shape, plate or bag hooks apply an area load and are thus more suitable for handling bags.

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since wetting and extremely high relative humidities may lead to mold growth.

Stowage factor

1.92 - 2.26 m3/t (jute bags, 60 - 65 kg) [1]
2.00 - 2.15 m3/t (bags) [11]
2.26 - 2.40 m3/t (bags) [14]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation.

The cargo should be stowed below deck away from sources of heat because there is a risk of self-heating and postfermentation. In this case, the container is no longer directly exposed to external weather conditions so that the temperature and humidity of the hold air become the decisive external influences. Temperatures below freezing point and major daily variations in temperature may result in spoilage of the cocoa beans. If the containers are nevertheless stowed on deck, they are best stowed as inner deck cargo. The risk of condensation is reduced by stowing between two other containers. However, stowage in this location should only be considered in the summer season if only small temperature gradients are anticipated during transport. Since frost must be expected at the port of destination during the winter months, stowage as inner deck cargo should be avoided.


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets

Cargo securing

In order to ensure safe transport, the bags must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that they cannot slip or shift during transport. If loss of volume and degradation of quality are to be avoided, the packages must not be damaged by other articles or items of cargo.

Attention must also be paid to stowage patterns which may be required as a result of special considerations, such as ventilation measures.

Back to beginning

Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Cocoa beans require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII)(storage climate conditions).

DesignationTemperature rangeSource
Travel temperature15°C[1]
< 30°C[2]

Raw cocoa must not be stowed near heat sources. Rancidity and overfermentation readily occur at temperatures of > 25°C. Due to its high fat content, the cargo has a tendency to self-heating, and there may even be a risk of a cargo fire on contact with flammable substances, e.g. copra expeller. Cocoa beans absolutely must not be stowed in a container together with oily products.

External temperatures of > 30°C may readily occur during container packing. Severe cooling at night may result in container sweat if the temperature dips below the dew point.

In the hotter parts of the year, the temperature drop between the port of loading and unloading may be 15 - 20°C. In the cold parts of the year, however, the difference may be 30°C or more. Incoming cold polar air may cause sudden drops in temperature which, especially in container interiors, may result in a considerable increase in relative humidity. In this situation, the water content of the cargo is particularly important. Rapid and major cooling from the outside may readily increase relative humidity to 100%, resulting in condensation and wetting, vapor and mold damage to the cocoa beans.

Cocoa beans must be protected from frost.

The following figure shows an example of the temperature profile of a batch of raw cocoa in various types of container:

Figure 20

Back to beginning

RF Humidity/Moisture

Cocoa beans require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII)(storage climate conditions)

DesignationHumidity/water contentSource
Relative humidity70%[1]
Water content6 - 8%[1]
< 8%[2]
< 9%[9]
Critical water content8.5%[1]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content65%[1]

It is recommended to demand on unloading a certificate which states the intrinsic moisture content of the cocoa beans.

Cocoa beans are known to be highly hygroscopic (hygroscopicity) and to release large amounts of water vapor during transport. Water content has accordingly been observed to fall by 1 - 3% during extended voyages. Improperly fermented and dried cocoa beans have a greater tendency to release water vapor.

If the water content is < 6%, cocoa beans become brittle, while at a water content of > 8%, there is a risk of vapor and mold damage which cause depreciation which may go as far as total loss due to rot.

A fundamental distinction is drawn between two types of moisture damage: sweat damage and vapor damage

Sweat damage (mold damage): Recognizable by spots on the bag fabric caused by drops of dirty water. Under these spots, there are clusters of cocoa beans covered with white mold and stuck together. In serious cases, the mold penetrates into the kernel of individual beans. As a result, these then smell and taste musty. Such losses are usually limited to only a few bags in a consignment and are caused by the formation of ship sweat below deck, especially at night when the surrounding atmosphere and thus the outer walls of the hold cool down. If the upper layer of bags in the hold is inadequately covered, the dripping cargo sweat cannot be absorbed, penetrates into the bags containing the cocoa beans and causes the damage described above.
Vapor damage: this is caused by excessive relative humidity in the hold or container. While the cocoa beans have only a thin covering of mold, from time to time the damage affects the entire contents of the bags stowed in a hold. Vapor damage is thus generally much more extensive than sweat damage. Marked mold growth is not normally observable, but aroma and flavor are still considerably degraded. For this reason, care must be taken not only to prevent formation of sweat, but also to ensure favorable relative humidity values in the hold/container.

On arrival in the port of discharge, the water content of the cargo should be just above 6%; a higher intrinsic moisture content would expose the cocoa to excessive risk on subsequent storage.

The product should also be shipped shortly after harvest as the consequent extended storage in the tropical countries of origin may readily result in losses due to the prevailing high relative humidities.

Since cocoa beans are strongly hygroscopic, they must not be stowed together with moisture-releasing goods, such as copra, bran or rafted logs.

Loss of moisture from the cargo and the consequent release of water vapor from the cocoa beans into the surroundings result in the formation of condensation on surfaces in the hold or on the cargo which may cause considerable damage.

Apart from containing water, the cocoa beans also contain enzymes which bring about postfermentation in the hold. Incorrect covering of batches of cargo resulting in obstruction of air circulation may in particular cause damage.

Bags damaged by rain, seawater and condensation must be rejected during acceptance of a consignment and, whether moist or redried, must never be stowed together with intact bags as the salt has the effect of greatly promoting the hygroscopicity of the raw cocoa, which may demonstrably lead to severe losses. In cases of doubt, already dried bags must be subjected to a seawater test (silver nitrate method). When accepting a cargo from lighters, difficulties obviously arise when rejecting seawater-damaged bags. The water content of the jute bags should be at most 9% (which is already the critical value). Measurements on jute sacks in containers have on occasion revealed values of up to 30%.

When transporting cocoa beans in containers, care should be taken to ensure that the water content of the cocoa beans on packing is approx. 6 - 8%, which corresponds to an equilibrium moisture content of 75 - 85% (at 20°C) and a temperature/dew point difference of 5 - 3°C. These are values which entail greater problems from the outset than are encountered, for example, with coffee shipments, because even the lower water content limit of 6% corresponds to the mold growth threshold of 75%. Moreover, cocoa beans have an elevated fat content which, in conjunction with moisture, results in hydrolytic/enzymatic fat cleavage and self-heating of the cocoa beans. The slight temperature/dew point difference also shows how rapidly the dew point of the cocoa cargo is reached on cooling. It is thus recommended to insist on a water content of 6% when transporting cocoa beans in containers.

Sorption isotherm

Figure 7

The Figures show typical types of damage which may occur during cocoa transport:

Sweat damage

Figure 8
Sweat damage

Figure 9
Sweat damage

Figure 10
Sweat damage

Figure 11

Figure 12

Figure 13

Figure 14

Figure 15
Sweat damage

Figure 16

Back to beginning

RF Ventilation

Cocoa beans require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII)(storage climate conditions)

Recommended ventilation: air exchange rate 10 - 20 changes/hour (airing)

Important: Good ventilation is required, so a suitable ventilation program must be drawn up depending upon external temperature, relative humidity, cargo temperature and moisture content of the cocoa beans.

Since the beans constantly release water vapor during the voyage, this vapor must be removed to the outside by suitable ventilation in order to reduce the risk of condensation in the event of unfavorable ambient conditions (e.g. sudden drops in temperature of the external air) and the risk of mold growth due to high relative humidity in the hold.

In the hold, it is particularly important for the covers which provide protection from dripping sweat (wooden dunnage, mats or jute coverings) to be arranged in such a way that air can still circulate freely. Ventilation channels and wells should be arranged in the stow.


Figure 17

When containers are shipped below deck, vigorous ventilation is necessary. A minimum air exchange rate of 20 changes/hour in the hold is recommended if continuous airing is to be achieved in the ventilated container. Ventilation of the hold must be arranged such that the air is blown in from beneath and rises upwards through the containers, so continuously removing warm, moist air. It is important to unpack the containers quickly on arrival at the port of destination, especially at cold times of year: when the containers emerge from the relatively well protected surroundings of the ship's hold and are exposed to the sometimes much colder outside air, the relative humidity in the containers may rise rapidly, resulting in the formation of condensation.

Using plastic materials to cover the container contents results in severe cargo sweating and consequent damage. Containers holding cocoa beans should, on principle, be stripped on arrival and have good ventilation (ventilated container).

In order to ensure more effective airing of the cocoa bags stowed in the container, a particular stowage pattern, similar to that for coffee or pepper, should be used:

Two layers of bags are first laid crosswise in two stacks, with some space being left at the side walls (important, so that the ventilation openings in the floor are not blocked up). Free space, which should usually be of a size of 20 - 30 cm, is also left in the middle in order to provide a ventilation channel.
A layer is then stowed lengthwise on the second layer.
The next layer is again stowed crosswise, bridging the gap between the two stacks with one bag.
Stowing is continued in this manner until the container is full. Approx. 50 - 75 cm of free space must remain between the uppermost layer and the container roof in order to ensure free circulation of fresh air supplied from outside.
Free space (approx. 10 - 15 cm) must also remain between the container door and the stowed bags so that the necessary air circulation can be maintained here as well. The bags in the door area must be secured with lashings so that they do not slip into this free space in transit, which would block air circulation.

When the cargo is conventionally loaded on general cargo ships, the hatch covers should be slightly lifted or opened in dry weather (relative humidity < 80%) and in safe sea conditions in order to dissipate any water vapor and to permit temperature equalization between the outside air and cargo.

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RF Biotic activity

Cocoa beans display 3rd order biotic activity.

They belongs to the class of products in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed, which, as a result of possible postfermentation, are in particular associated with oxygen consumption and CO2 evolution. Although they lose their ability to germinate as a result of fermentation, poorly fermented cocoa beans may germinate.

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RF Gases

Evolution of CO2 by postfermentation may endanger life. Thus, before anybody enters the hold, a gas measurement must be carried out. The threshold limit value (TLVD) is 0.49 vol.% CO2.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

Oil content: 39 - 60% [1]

Under suitable ambient conditions (temperature > 25°C, high relative humidity, lack of oxygen supply) and due to their high oil content, cocoa beans have a tendency to self-heating and postfermentation. Some species of fungus, such as Aspergillus fumigatus, participate in the self-heating.

One example is the spontaneous combustion of broken raw cocoa beans in a bulk load in the form of smoldering cavities or channels. There are four distinct phases in the development of the fire:

1st phase: General biological phase in which mesophilic microorganisms multiply in a wet spot, raising the temperature to approx. 37°C.
2nd phase: Phase involving the highest level of activity from thermophilic microorganisms at temperatures of up to approx. 70°C. Samples from the seat of the fire exhibit a particularly high content of thermophilic microorganisms.
3rd phase: The thermophilic decomposition phase which is characterized by exothermic chemical breakdown reactions, in particular by oxidation reactions between unsaturated fatty acids and atmospheric oxygen (the cocoa beans having a fat content of > 50%). A strong, pungent stench of fermentation becomes perceptible.
4th phase: The pyrophoric gas phase, in which pyrophoric carbon and gases (e.g. phosphine) are formed. The resultant abrupt increase in temperature gives rise to smoldering cavities and channels within the bulk load.


Figure 18

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RF Odor

Active behaviorCocoa beans have a characteristic, strong odor. This odor may taint, for example, raw coffee, which should thus not be stowed together with cocoa beans in a hold/container. Excessively long fermentation may impart a typical, ham-like odor to the beans; a smoky odor is due to incorrect drying.
Passive behaviorCocoa beans are very odor-sensitive (particularly towards copra bran, pepper and palm kernels). Due to the elevated odor-sensitivity, holds or containers must not smell of previous loads (e.g. citrus odor, odor of leather, pepper, chemicals etc.). Before containers are loaded, they must be inspected to establish whether they are free of foreign odors.

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RF Contamination

Active behaviorCocoa beans do not cause contamination.
Passive behaviorCocoa beans are sensitive to contamination by dust, dirt, fats and oils. Raw cocoa is particularly sensitive to cement and coal dust: cement dust passes through the bags onto the beans, causing major losses.

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RF Mechanical influences

Point loads applied for example by hooks may result in damage (tears) to the bags and thus to losses of volume. Plate or bag hooks, which, due to their shape, distribute the load and reduce the risk of damage, should thus be used. Exposure to moisture in particular increases the susceptibility of jute bags to rotting, which reduces their mechanical strength.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

Evolution of CO2 due to respiration and postfermentation. Take care when entering the hold. Possible oxygen shortage! Use gas detector.

For example, 121 metric tons of raw cocoa were loaded onto an ocean-going vessel at the Port Kelang (Malaysia), occupying 300 m³ out of a total available hold volume of 800 m³. Shortly after entering the hold, the 1st officer felt dizzy and so dashed back out again. On returning to hold with a breathing apparatus, a CO2 content of 6 vol.% was measured. By way of comparison, breathing air containing of 8 - 10 vol.% of CO2 is fatal within just 5 - 10 minutes. Despite constant ventilation of the hold, a content of 2 vol.% CO2 was still recorded some time later. The threshold limit value (TLVD) is 0.49 vol.% CO2.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Shrinkage of 1% (normal), rising in exceptional cases to 3%, should be anticipated due to drying during the voyage.

"Slack bags" should be rejected on acceptance of a consignment as the slackness indicates short quantities.


Figure 19

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Before the means of transport is loaded, the cargo should be fumigated (obtain a fumigation certificate).

Typical pests are the cocoa and meal moth, together with ants and cockroaches, which may cause severe losses by eating and contaminating the cargo. Infested cargo is usually fumigated to eliminate the living insects. On board pest control using fumigation tablets may result in dust deposits on the bags. This dust still contains residues of the poison, which can also be highly hazardous to humans.

Insect infestation usually originates in the country of production when the raw cocoa has been stored for an extended period; but insect infestation may also occur on long voyages.

Mold infestation: mold growth may considerably reduce the quality of cocoa beans. Scientific investigations [52] have revealed eight mold species which produce foul-smelling substances and also cause the tissue of the beans to decompose. Some species participate in self-heating of the cargo, while others may form strong toxins.

If the molds find favorable living conditions, i.e. when the critical water content of 8.5% is exceeded at an equilibrium moisture content of approx. 88%, the molds rapidly develop within 3 - 4 days, at the end of which period thousands of spores have formed on the surface of the cocoa beans.

The number of mold spores may also be used to assess the quality of the cargo:

CategoryNumber of spores/gramMacroscopic examination of samplesSuitability for useQuality
1100 - 1.000No traces of mold growthYesHigh
21000 - 10,000Slight development of molds on individual beansYesLow
325,000 - 100,000Slight to considerable mold growth on all beansUncertainLow
4> 100,000Severe mold growth over entire sampleZeroPoor

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© Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft e.V. (GDV), Berlin 2002-2013

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