What Are Cacao Nibs?
Posted by Jeff Stern on May 03, 2017
Most people know what chocolate is-at least they know what chocolate tastes like, that it usually comes in a bar, and is considered a sweet treat in most cases. Chocolate is usually consumed by itself or in a dessert combined with ingredients to make cakes, cookies, brownies, or even some fruit desserts. Chocolate is also used for drinking and making other beverages. Chocolate is the finished product that starts with the cacao bean-which is technically really a seed. Most chocolate contains added sugar and in some cases added fats. Cacao nibs have no sugar or additional fat. But where do cacao nibs come from?
Chocolate begins its transformation after the cacao bean is harvested from cacao trees. Cacao pods, which weigh approximately two to three pounds when fresh, are cut off the tree, carefully split open, and the beans are removed. Cacao beans are surrounded by a wet, sugary, delicious tasting pulp. This pulp dries up during fermentation.
The beans are then set to ferment for a period usually lasting anywhere from two to seven days. The time for fermentation depends on the climate, local practices, and the variety of beans. During fermentation, cacao beans develop the initial flavors of chocolate, but still taste far from the final product of chocolate.
Once the beans have been fermented, they are laid out to dry for several days. In case of rain, the beans are covered with plastic sheeting or roofing, which is often installed to slide on rails over the cement. This keeps the beans from getting wet.
After the beans have gone through this lengthy process, they are now ready to be shipped to a chocolate factory and made into chocolate.
First, the beans have to be carefully roasted to create more of the chocolate flavor we know and love. The roasting usually takes under and hour and prepares the beans for the next step, which is removal of the shell.
The shell on the cocoa bean has no chocolate flavor and is not edible. So the beans are sent through a machine which cracks them open. The heavy pieces of the cracked beans are called the nibs. These are the nibs that we can now eat, and are available here at the cocoa pod shop. The shells are vacuumed away while the nibs fall and are saved for further processing into chocolate.
So cocoa nibs are just semi-processed cocoa beans that are fully edible, but contain no added sugar, fat or other ingredients. They are about as close to eating pure cocoa as you can get!