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Oct 26, 2007 02:48 PM

Where to buy Cocoa Beans?

I found a recipe for 'Ultimate Chocolate Milk' that I simply must try -- it calls for cocoa beans as an ingredient, and I have absolutely no idea where to find these.

I'm in Palo Alto, so suggestions around the peninsula are appreciated.


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  1. Is it the one from Sunset magazine? They mention Mexican/Latin markets, so if you have one of those around, that's where I'd look. Otherwise mail order... they give a resource which is just in San Carlos, so not too far away.

    12 Replies
    1. re: chemchef

      Even in the Mexican markets its hard to find them unless they have a Southern Mexican customer base. Best bet is probably at Whole Foods or any store that carries a full line of Sharfenberger or Valhrona products (closest they get is cacao nibs which is essentially the same).

      If you really want to go authentic... then I believe Gourmet Sleuth sells the green Cacao Beans you would roast yourself.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Berkeley Bowl sells cacao beans in bulk, as do a few other places in the EB, so I don't think they're that hard to find. Roasting the beans is fine, but if they're green, its likely that they still need to be fermented as well, which is more work than anyone I know is willing to do for chocolate milk! :-)

        1. re: chemchef

          Any 'raw' cacao you find anywhere (unless you're growing your own trees in the tropics somewhere) will be of the dried, fermented sort. It's not a good idea to eat or include in recipes at this stage without some kind of sterilization.

          You can find good raw cacao here:

          And questionable, origin-unknown stuff in bulk bins lots of places.

          Check your recipe though--I'd be surprised if it's not actually calling for nibs rather than raw fermented beans. As mentioned above, you can get those at most any market from Scharffen Berger or other chocolate makers.

          1. re: fqalzai

            fgalzai: What makes you say that dried, fermented cocoa beans need to be "sterilized" before eating?

            1. re: Pollo

              Cacao fermentation is fundamentally just a controlled composting process. The beans are sun dried, but not sterilized, so prior to roasting there are lots and lots of potential contaminants...See:


              If you do want to eat them raw, make sure you know the origin and are comfortable with the processing.

              1. re: fqalzai

                The same is true after roasting....which is not a sterilization still have many "bugs" (thermophilic spores) that are left but these are no-pathogenic....

                1. re: Pollo

                  Which is why many chocolate makers steam sterilize before (or during) roasting. Still on the coliform bacteria front, roasting alone is almost totally effective, and that's the area most people worry about most, if that makes sense.

                  Also, keep in mind that conching occurs at higher temps than are comfortable for most bacterial baddies, and may run for 24-72 hours...

                  1. re: fqalzai

                    Applying live steam (not under pressure) to a product (cocoa - liquid/dry) doeas not sterilize it....check your defintion of "sterilization". I agree with your second comment which in essence is what I said that any pathogenic mesophilic "bugs" will be inactivarted either through the fermentation process or the roasting the chances of picking up something from eating roasted cocoa beans are very remote....

                    1. re: Pollo

                      Oh, I totally agree. Eating roasted cacao is quite safe. I thought we were discussing eating dried fermented cacao (pre-roasting)--I do worry about some of the raw foods folks on that front.

        2. re: Eat_Nopal

          I was able to find whole cacao beans at Mi Puebla market off Alma at Rengstorff in Mountain View. The beans come in 8oz packages and were only about $3/package. Nibs at whole foods were $8 for a 6oz pack.

          Here's the recipe link if anyone is interested:

          Thanks for the replies!

          1. re: jcarlile

            Mi Puebla... there you go... you found a market with a Southern Mexican customer base.

            1. re: jcarlile

              Cool! Thanks for the link. 'Freshly roasted cocoa beans' means nibs, basically. If you're roasting the cacao yourself, make sure you winnow the beans before adding them to the mix.

        3. Whole Foods San Mateo has them in the chocolate section in vacuum bags. You could call and see if the PA WF has them too.

          1. I'm in Santa Clara...has anyone been successful in finding cocoa nibs at the Cupertino Whole Foods or anywhere else? I really hesitate to go there without knowing for sure....that place is crazy busy on Sundays!



            1 Reply
            1. re: Margyb

              can you call them and ask if they have them?

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. Bumping this old thread with a question: is there an easy way to tell whether cacao beans for sale have been pre-roasted, or only dried and fermented?

                I was at Casa Lucas on 24th in SF today and I noticed the beans in the bulk bins (have also seen them at El Ahorro). I picked one out of the bin; the skin was papery and I easily rubbed it off between my fingers. Underneath, the bean had a sheen to it; I broke off a tiny piece and tasted it - the flavor to me was basically dark chocolate without any sugar. So I guessed this was probably a pre-roasted bean, but as a cacao novice I wasn't sure if this was right.

                Also, is there anywhere in the city limits that sells fermented but unroasted beans?

                1 Reply
                1. re: bigwheel042

                  Stopped in El Ahorro tonight and confirmed that their beans ($6/lb) are fermented but unroasted. They also sell prepackaged nibs for $6/8oz.

                  Casa Lucas's apparently roasted beans are $6/lb as well.