Depending on the temperature, pod ripening can take between 4.5 to 7 months from flowering. Pods must be harvested when they are fully ripe with a visible orange or yellow shell. Beans from unripe pods produce low quality cocoa. Ripe pods should be removed as soon as possible in order to minimise attack by fungal diseases or animal pests. In addition, ripe beans can germinate inside the pod, which has a negative effect on the cocoa quality.
Recommendations for harvesting:
- Harvesting should be carried out at regular intervals of 1.5 to 3 weeks.
- Pods must be cut off the tree with knives without damaging the stem on which further fruits will form.
- After harvesting, pods can be kept for a few days before opening. Such a delay has been found to be advantageous in improving the cocoa quality.
- Pods then have to be opened for the removal of the beans. It is important to separate the beans from the placenta. Either the pods are opened in the field and only the beans moved for fermentation or the pods are transported and opened near the fermenting kegs. To reduce the risk of damaging the beans, the pods are to be cracked on a hard surface (stone or wood) or by hitting them with a piece of wood.