After fermentation and drying the cocoa beans are ready for export. Packed in jute or sisal sacks, they are generally driven in lorries to the port, where they set off on their sea journey from the equatorial countries of their growth to chocolate manufacturers all over the world.
Cocoa beans are a sensitive cargo. They are hygroscopic, meaning that they not only absorb water but also constantly give off water vapour, so require very specific ventilation, moisture and temperature conditions. The beans themselves should be well fermented. If the moisture content of the beans drops below 6% they run the risk of becoming brittle and cracking. If it rises above 8% the cocoa beans may be spoilt by condensation and mould.
Cocoa beans should ideally travel in the hold of the ship rather than on deck, as if the temperature fluctuates too much, condensation may form and lead to mould damage. At temperatures above 25°C, there is also a risk of overfermentation, with the beans becoming rancid and heating up of their own accord due to the high fat content.
Ideally, the sacks of beans are thus transported in what are known as ventilated containers; the luxury cabins, so to speak, of a cargo ship. These feature ventilator units and anti-condensation liners.
When transported in standard containers, the beans are usually put in lined bags to protect them against moisture and dirt.
When they arrive at their destination ports, the journey continues by rail, lorry or inland waterway to the chocolate factories, where the cocoa beans are carefully inspected to see which can be used for which chocolate.