Daily doubletake

Chickens going to town on drying cocoa.

Conjure that up next time you eat a chocolate bar. Many people dry their cocoa beans under the sun in their front yards. It's a much slower and more laborious process than using a cocoa oven, particularly in rainy season (during which the first cocoa harvests start) when consecutive hours of sunlight are hard to come by, but it's cheaper than renting use of the cocoa oven, and (I'm not sure to what extent this is actually tracked by buyers) it bypasses the potential hazard of smoky-thus devalued-cocoa. Of course, one wonders what other chemical processes may be going on as the slimy beans sit (doubtlessly fermenting) for days on end, trying to become dehydrated in a climate where relative humidity is 80% in dry season, so if I had to choose, I think I'd lean toward smoke-flavoured chocolate myself.

As these tarps, anywhere from 1½ to 3 or 4 metres square, sit on the muddy ground, there are no fences or screens to protect them from the environment -- full of insects, dust, and wildlife -- which surrounds them. I often marvelled that the creatures did seem to leave the smelly squares alone...until one day I saw a chicken energetically sampling the merchandise spread out in someone's front yard. He was trotting through, pecking at a bean here and there, and I shuddered to think of his foul feet trampling the cocoa.

Mmmmm, don't you just love chocolate! By the way, did I ever tell you how they get the slimy fibrous casings off the cocoa beans? ;)


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