Does Cacao Fruit Taste Like Chocolate?

Many desserts just wouldn't be the same without milk and dark chocolate, which begs the question, "How is the stuff made?" The process starts with cacao trees, which are divided into four types: the Criollo (rare, high-quality beans), Forastero (known for their pronounced chocolatey taste), Trinitario (beans that are packed with flavor and easy to harvest), and finally, the Nacional (which are challenging to grow because they are so prone to disease), according to Science of Cooking. These cacao trees produce large pods with many beans hidden inside their soft, white pulp.

According to BBC's Science Focus, to harvest them, the beans need to be detached from their placentas, which sets the stage for the fermentation process (yes, chocolate is fermented, just like kimchi and miso). Fermenting is a slow process, but it gives the chocolate its deep and complex flavor. After fermentation, the beans are completely dried in the sun and then roasted to soften their acidity and eliminate harmful bacteria. 

The beans can now be freed of their husks and ground, at which point they're mixed with sugar. The pulverized beans are then tempered, which ensures that the chocolate that forms will appear smooth and break cleanly. Finally, the molten chocolate gets formed into aesthetically pleasing, chocolate bar shapes.

But can you bypass these steps to get that same chocolate flavor from a cacao pod?

Fruity meets bitter

Let's start with the white pulp. Many indicate that its flavor is sweet and reminiscent of mangoes. Tastylicious describes the flavor as a "complex melange of fruity flavors and a slightly sour undertone" and that there's only the faintest hint of chocolate flavor.

However, the flavor of the pulp bears a stark contrast to the cacao beans inside. As Science of Focus explains, the beans are perfectly fine to eat raw, but they're going to taste intense, bitter, and a bit earthy. Tastylicious indicates that the beans do have a chocolatey flavor but that it's overpowered by an astringency. But if you're going to eat it raw they suggest you consume the pulp with the bean to get a better balance of the bitter chocolate and sweet mango flavors.

If cacao fruit sounds tasty to you, you can always purchase them online from reputable vendors. If not, it's probably best to just stick to good, old-fashioned chocolate, but at least now, you'll know where it comes from and how it's made.