What are nibs?

What are cacao nibs? It is a question we hear quite often! The simple answer is this: nibs are pure chocolate before it becomes chocolate. However, it’s not quite that simple. These delicious tidbits have an adventure behind them!

Our nibs begin their life inside cacao pods in Ecuador:

pre-nibs cacao pod on tree

Each pod is filled with rows of fruit-covered seeds.

fresh cut cacao pod

When the seeds are dried, the fruit oxidizes, turning from white to brown and hardens around the shells, helping develop the flavor of (guess what?!) the center of the seed, called the nib.

purple fermented beans

Here, our farmer, Samuel, is holding some partially-fermented seeds (also known as beans). At this stage, the shells are a pale brown, while the nib is a swirl of purple and darker brown. Earlier, these nibs were a vibrant purple. Despite the glamorous looks, we wouldn’t recommend tasting them when they’re this pretty color… It is not pleasant. Trust us. Stick to feasting with your eyes.

beans drying in the sun

dried beans cut open

After a closely-monitored period of fermentation and drying, the nibs fade to a nice chocolatey-brown. (see second picture above) The shells and nibs are now similar in color. Still in their thin shells, the nutty treasures are shipped to our shop in Portland.

cacao beans

In our chocolate factory, we carefully roast these beans (seeds), developing their chocolate flavor. You can always tell when the beans are roasting. The smell is divine chocolateyness!

After roasting, we crack them into pieces. (If you haven’t seen this happening in our shop, be sure to ask about it next time you visit.) Next, our winnower separates pieces of thin shell from pieces of nibs.

nibs into winnowing machine
Now the nibs are delicious nutty pieces, ready to eat! From here, they will either be ground down to make chocolate bars, used for brownie and cookie toppings, pressed to create cocoa powder and cocoa butter, or packaged for others to use. We also love to use them in smoothies, granola, ice cream, cereal, salads, and baked goods. Yummy!