Do you know how we get chocolate ?
Let Uncle A-shin take you on a magical journey to explore the birth of chocolate !
Cocoa trees favor growing in hot and rainy climates. Most production is concentrated in three regions; central and south America, west Africa, and southeast Asia. Traveling around various places, Uncle A-shin found that Taiwan south of Chiayi actually has similar climatic conditions, and so he brought cocoa seedlings back to Taiwan's Pingtung County, to turn Taiwan into a new cocoa homeland !
There are more than 300 cocoa trees growing vigorously within the farm. That's the result of the hard work of Uncle A-shin and local farming smallholders. In fact, cocoa cultivation is more difficult than you may imagine. Cocoa trees like a hot climate, but during the initial period they can't be in an environment with full exposure to constant sunshine. How can you make cocoa trees, which love hot weather yet cannot tolerate direct sunshine, grow healthy and strong? This secret will be revealed when you come to the A-shin Chocolate Farm !!!
Cocoa is a native plant of the Amazon rainforest. The suitable climate for its cultivation is 20 to 30℃, with small temperature fluctuations, annual rainfall in excess of 1,250mm, and the soil it is grown in must have good drainage and aeration. For these reasons, Taiwan south of Chiayi is suitable for cocoa cultivation. In the A-shin Chocolate Farm's experience of cultivating cocoa in various parts of Taiwan, one 666.67-m2 cocoa tree plantation area can be planted with about 500 trees. They need the shade provided by inter-cropping with other, higher fruit trees, and in this way, one piece of land can have two kinds of harvests!
The height of a cocoa tree is between four to 10 meters, and the diameter of the trunk is 10 to 20 centimeters. Only after over a year of growth will branches begin to bloom. After three to four years of cultivation, a tree will begin to bear fruit, and it can be harvested about five months after bearing fruit. Its period of economic harvest is approximately 20 to 25 years.
A multitude of white, pink, and red flowers will grow from the tree trunk. In botany, these are called ' cauliflory.' Cocoa flowers growing on the trunk have five petals, and are 'bisexual flowers,' with separate pistils.
Actually, very few cocoa fruit pods grow out and mature from the trunk; less than about 1% of the total. Usually, each cocoa tree has an annual harvest of from 100 to 200 cocoa pods. A pod is the name given to the fruit of a cocoa tree, and a pod grows in an elongated olive shape like a rugby ball. Pods are about 15 to 32 cm in length, with a diameter of 5 to 10 cm. When ripe, there are many colors, such as green, red, yellow, purple and so on.
Cocoa beans are the raw material from which chocolate is produced. Internationally, demand for cocoa beans is increasing constantly, with prices rising year by year. The New York International Futures Index has risen 21% since January 1st, 2014. Additionally, west African cocoa producing countries such as Ivory Coast, Liberia and other countries have been hit by the 'Ebola' epidemic, affecting the supply of cocoa beans, resulting in the price of the already rare and precious cocoa beans climbing to new highs. Cocoa trees are crops with a high economic value, suitable for planting in areas between Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. The various cities and counties of southern Taiwan are suitable areas for growing cocoa trees, and because cocoa trees like partly shaded environments, they can be grown together with conventional crops.
A-shin Chocolate Farm began investing in cocoa tree cultivation research many years ago, and started a planting program. At this same time, research in post-production processing technology was also invested in, and A-shin's own brand of chocolate and ice-cream, 'UNCLE CHOCO', and outlets in restaurants and department stores were set up, as well as cooperative chocolate ecology hermitage DIY exploration activities, which were warmly welcomed by consumers. However, by this time, production could not meet demand, thus the 'Cocoa Tree Planting Promotion Plan' was proposed, in the hope that by establishing a Cocoa Industry Defender System, guidance to farmers interested in cocoa cultivation could be provided, expanding cultivation areas. During the harvesting period, the harvest will be purchased in accordance with agreed contract prices. This not only raises the farmers' incomes, and increases agricultural output, but also to create internationally competitive Taiwanese chocolate food brands and brings about a 'win-win Taiwan cocoa industry sales six star agricultural industry'.
A contract farming area of 100 hectares
Cocoa trees can be grown as a monoculture, and they can also be combined with the farming of existing crops (fruit trees), without affecting the existing farming income.
Cocoa tree cultivation will begin to yield results after the second or third year, and the annual fruiting season lasts up to nine months, with an economic production per tree of 25 years, providing additional revenue to existing seasonal crops.
In order to effectively integrate farming smallholders with the specialized division of work and complementary use of resources of production and marketing organizations, to accelerate the improvement of the marketing structure for production, processing and sales, and improve the overall competitiveness of the agriculture industry, the Executive Yuan's Council of Agriculture promoted the 'Agriculture Industry Defender System' plan in 2007, which has yielded excellent results.
A-shin Chocolate Farm is a cocoa cultivation member with chocolate processing post-production capacity. In addition, the farm has its own 'UNCLE CHOCO' brand of chocolate and ice cream specialty shop. In order to stimulate the upgrading of the overall cocoa industry, expand sales, improve sales channels, and develop Taiwanese chocolate brands, we established a Defender System Integration Zone Cocoa Farming and Marketing Group, and constructed a marketing organization in line with the 'Agriculture Defender System's A-shin Chocolate Farm - Cocoa Industry Defender System' model (see figure below).
A-shin Chocolate Farm welcomes farmers and production and marketing groups who are interested in cultivating cocoa to join our contract farming program!
Contract farming matters/ cocoa seedlings purchase hotline: 0934-057-283
Do you know how we get chocolate ?
Do you know what color the pods that make chocolate are ?
What fruit does the fruit of a cocoa tree look like ?
Let Uncle A-shin take you on a magical journey to explore the birth of chocolate!
The most ideal growing areas for cocoa trees are tropical rainforests within 20 degrees latitude north and south of the equator, with year round temperatures fluctuating between 20 and 30℃, and annual rainfall in excess of 1,250mm; in these conditions cocoa trees can grow vigorously and sturdily! Apart from the larger scale cultivation areas of the rainforest regions of central and south America and central Africa, what's exciting is that Pingtung also has the growth conditions that cocoa trees love!
After the cocoa fruit has ripened, it is ready to be harvested! After picking, a wooden stick or a knife is used to cut open the ripe cocoa pods from the middle, revealing the soft and sticky white pulp. The rind covering the pulp is used to make chocolate cocoa strings !
The key next step is to hollow out the string of cocoa beans and pile them in a fermentation barrel, cover them with banana leaves and let them ferment naturally for five to seven days. During the fermentation process, distinct aromas of bread, alcohol distillation and alcohol are given off, while the body of the white gelatinous pulp decomposes due to fermentation, and drains as a liquid. After fermentation has been completed, the cocoa beans take on a slightly burnt dry appearance and the color changes into a reddish brown.
After fermentation, cocoa beans are allowed to dry naturally in the sunshine or are dried artificial in a drier. The drying temperature should not exceed 65 ℃, and during the drying process the cocoa beans should be regularly turned to ensure uniform drying. When the moisture content of the beans has dropped from 60% to about 7.5%, the process is complete. After completion of drying, they can be packaged and stored.
Commonly seen air drying methods are manual frying and baking machine processing. Using baking reduces organic acids generated during fermentation, and makes tannin oxidation reduce the bitter taste. Particularly when baking at high temperatures, Maillard reaction will occur with the existence of the amino acids and reducing sugars, and at this time, the unique aroma and color of chocolate is generated!
After baking, cocoa beans are rapidly cooled, and then crushed along the grooves by a roller grinding machine, after which they are put through a vibration blow drier and screening machine to separate shell debris from the crushed nuts.
In order to be able to create a unique flavor and balance costs, each manufacturer will carry out the most appropriate mixing in accordance with the bean's variety, place of origin, and price, to achieve a special flavor which no single variety of cocoa beans provides. This mixing ratio is almost always an exclusive formula of each manufacturer.
Cocoa pods contain about 55% cocoa butter. During the grinding process, cells are destroyed, and the butter flows out of the surface, to be ground until hot. Cocoa butter will melt into a viscous, oily liquid, with fine non-butter particles suspended therein, to become a fluid paste, and this substance is called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor.
Refining is a key step in determining the value of chocolate products. According to the different chocolate recipes one may wish to produce, sugar and milk is added to cocoa paste. The refining process removes volatile components and the burnt smell, and the materials continue to fully interact with the air, so that tannin components solidify to produce chocolate's aroma and flavor. The smoothness of chocolate is also a criterion for judging its quality. Generally, chocolate cream particles should be up to 15 microns in size (one micron = one millionth of a meter).
The final stage in processing is taking the temperature adjusted chocolate and injecting it into model form. Small bubbles produced during filling are removed by vibration machines, the chocolate is then solidified by cooling, and finally the chocolate is removed from the model template, fed into packaging machines for packaging and that's it! Let's taste the wonderful flavor of the 'food of the gods' together!