Cocoa is the secret to the mouth-watering chocolates we all love eating. Take a look at the top cocoa-producing countries in the world in this article.
Cocoa is the secret to the mouth-watering chocolates we all love eating. Most of us would love to travel to a place like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and dive into a world full of sweets. The secret to Willy Wonka’s unique chocolates was a very special cocoa bean he found. Similarly, different cocoa beans from different parts of the world produce different results. Cocoa beans are processed into different products such as chocolate, cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
The cocoa tree is native to the Amazon’s rainforests. It is also grown in parts of Africa and Asia. What makes cocoa beans so special is related to their cultivation. Cocoa trees are cultivated in small areas. This is because cocoa trees are prone to various diseases and the disease spreads quickly. Producers can lose between 30 to 100% of their production due to diseases. Therefore, cocoa production is a difficult process and it affects the prices of cocoa products. Let’s take a look at the top cocoa-producing countries in the world and what makes them so special.
Côte d'Ivoire is by far the largest cocoa bean producer in the world. In the 2019/2020 period, Côte d'Ivoire produced 2,1 million tons of cocoa beans. Also known as Ivory Coast, this country in West Africa makes up at least 30% of the world's cocoa production. The country’s economy is highly dependent on cocoa production and exports. Therefore, the price of cocoa beans is quite an important factor for Ivory Coast.
Ghana is the second-largest cocoa producer in the world. However, even as the second country, Ghana’s production in the 2019/2020 period is well behind Côte d'Ivoire with 771.000 tons. Similar to other countries that produce cocoa beans, Ghana’s economy is also dependent on cocoa. 30% of the revenue generated from their exports comes from cocoa.
Ecuador is a popular cocoa producer. You may be familiar with it if you came across it on a chocolate bar. Despite the fact that Ecuador's cocoa beans are one of the favorites of artisans, cocoa production is not that high. Compared to other countries, Ecuador comes third with 342.000 tons of cocoa production in the 2019/2020 period.
Cameroon follows Ecuador closely in cocoa production and ranks fourth. In the 2019/2020 period, Cameroon produced 280.000 tons of cocoa.
Located near Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria is another big producer of cocoa beans in the world. Nigeria’s production of cocoa is close to Cameron in the 2019/2020 period with 250.000 tons. However, as the cocoa trees in Nigeria are getting old, new methods of cultivation become important. Hence, technological developments and diversification of cocoa products are crucial for Nigeria’s future as a cocoa-producing country.
Differing from others, Indonesia is an Asian country that produces cocoa beans. In the 2019/2020 period, Indonesia produced 200.000 tons of cocoa. Again, unlike other countries on the list, cocoa production is a fairly new industry for Indonesia. Cocoa production started around the 1980s and peaked in 2009 in the country. Since then, however, the production of cocoa beans has been declining.
Brazil is one of the countries that produce cocoa in South America. Even though it is not at the top of this list, it is the largest cocoa producer in South America. In the 2019/2020 period, Brazil produced 201.000 tons of cocoa beans.
Venezuela once was the world’s leader cocoa producer. However, in 2020, Venezuela produced 20.000 tons of cocoa beans. Even though the production of cocoa beans decreased over the years, Venezuela’s cocoa is considered to be the best cocoa in the world. According to the International Cocoa Organization, Venezuelan cocoa exceeds global excellence standards. What makes Venezuelan cocoa so special is its varied genetics along with the cultivation location and climate. Therefore, chocolate made of Venezuelan cocoa beans is far more delicious.
Once the cocoa beans are harvested, they are not used immediately. In order to bring about the cocoa beans’ natural flavor, fermentation takes place. This process turns the taste of cocoa beans into what we associate with chocolate. The fermentation process takes about 2-10 days depending on the type of cocoa bean. After the fermentation phase, the cocoa beans dry in the sun. This is when the cocoa beans’ color starts to change from reddish-brown to a darker brown. The process of drying usually takes 1-2 weeks.
After the quality inspection, cocoa beans are transferred to manufacturing facilities where they are sorted, cleaned, and roasted. Roasting is a crucial step that gives the cocoa bean a distinct chocolate flavor. After roasting, cocoa beans are separated from the shell, leaving a cocoa nib. This is the main ingredient in making chocolate. These nibs are then ground into a paste. This paste is also known as chocolate liquor. It is not alcoholic by any means. The name is purely given due to its liquid form.
At this point, the paste can directly be used in making chocolate or the cocoa butter can be separated. The paste is pressed until the cocoa butter is separated. After this process, it is separated into cocoa and cocoa powder. Furthermore, the grinding of the paste continues until it is smooth. Then, the paste and the cocoa butter are mixed in different quantities to make various types of chocolate. Lastly, tempering occurs to give the chocolate its unique texture.
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