Pods containing cocoa beans grow from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree. Harvesting involves removing ripe pods from the trees and opening them to extract the wet beans. The pods are harvested manually by making a clean cut through the stalk with a well sharpened blade. For pods high on the tree, a pruning hook type of tool can be used, with a handle on the end of a long pole. By pushing or pulling according to the position of the fruit, the upper and lower blades of the tool enable the stalk to be cut cleanly without damaging the branch that bears it.
The pods are opened to remove the beans within a week to 10 days after harvesting. In general, the harvested pods are grouped together and split either in or at the edge of the plantation. Sometimes the pods are transported to a fermentary before splitting. If the pods are opened in the planting areas, the discarded husks can be distributed throughout the fields to return nutrients to the soil.
The best way of opening the pods is to use a wooden club which, if it strikes the central area of the pod, causes it to split into two halves; it is then easy to remove the wet beans by hand. A cutting tool, such as a machete, is often used to split the pod, though this can damage the beans. Some machinery has been developed for pod opening, but smallholders in general carry out the process manually. After extraction from the pod, the beans undergo a fermentation and drying process before being bagged for delivery.