Once the wet beans are collected directly from the farmers, paying the farmers on the spot, the best price in the Solomons, (along with copious amounts of banana leaves) the beans are placed in crates in the truck to begin to drain as they are driven back to Honiara, approx. 40 – 60 minutes away. Here they are sorted by village, placed into the fermentation boxes and heavily covered, first by banana leaves and then by sacks.
Diana consistently does small basket fermentation, when she wants to check a particular farm, where she feels the quality is exceptional or she would like to provide more training.
This is possible as the wet beans can be separated upon collection by farm. Often this single basket ferment is then turned into chocolate, so the whole flavour profile can be discerned.
Once the beans have been signed off as having reached the required minimum moisture content they are screened and graded.
Diana will not allow any ‘seconds’ to pass through to her boutique stock. She also has the benefit of being based next door to Changwing Cocoa Bulk Exporters, which is a sister company. Anything that does not pass the quality control test is transferred to the bulk cocoa market. Small beans are transferred into Cathliro’s value-added production and turned into nibs, for example. Only the best beans make it through to the boutique market.
The beans are then bagged into the 62kg bags and stored by village. Each batch is dated and tracked.
The sacks are turned every two weeks, whilst they await their new home, to ensure even maturing.