Everyone knows that chocolate comes from cocoa. But before reaching the shelves, the beans still go through a long process. Today you will understand what happens from the harvest to the moment when this delight is packaged, tintin for tintin! How about opening that bar and enjoying yourself while learning more about the origin of chocolate?
The first part of this adventure begins on the plantations. Cocoa occurs mainly in tropical regions, with a hot and humid climate. From the moment they are planted, cocoa trees take an average of 3 or 4 years to become stealthy. After that time, flowers begin to grow, only a few of which undergo fertilization and develop fruit.
The cocoa harvest takes place twice a year, every five or six months. After harvesting, the fruits are carefully cut in half to avoid damaging the seeds, which are trapped in the pulp and must be removed one by one manually. Each fruit contains between 20 and 40 seeds (about the size of an almond).
After that, fermentation takes place: the seeds are placed on the ground and covered over banana leaves or in wooden boxes with holes that allow the excess liquid to drain. This process, which can take up to 8 days, aims to prevent germination and remove pulp residues that are trapped in the seed. After this part, the color of the seeds changes from beige to purple and its acidity is reduced.
After fermentation, the cocoa beans are still quite moist. Before being sent to chocolate manufacturers, the beans must go through the drying process. Usually, the grains (also called almonds) are scattered on the floor and dry with the heat of the sun. After drying, the almonds are separated by size and quality – important criteria at the time of sale. Soon, they are stored in bags and sent to chocolate makers.
In general, chocolate manufacturers keep some secrets about their products, such as quality, type of grains used and special production formulas. Let’s say that there are several ways to get to chocolate, but each manufacturer has its own trail.
When they reach the hands of the manufacturer, some samples of the beans undergo tests, where their characteristics and peculiarities are analyzed. Then, to remove any pebbles or unwanted soil remnants, the beans undergo a cleaning process.
It is then that a machine separates the husks of the “nibs” from cocoa (crushed seeds), leaving the latter ready to be roasted. The nibs are then ground and heated. Because they contain about 53% cocoa butter, nibs reach a liquid texture during the process and become what is known as “cocoa liquor”.
Cocoa liquor can now beer used to make chocolate, transformed into cocoa powder or to have its cocoa butter extracted for another purpose. However, some more demanding manufacturers include in their list another process known as “conching”, which reduces some of the acidity of the chocolate and makes the product melt in your mouth more easily.
In this case, the conching machine kneads and mixes the cocoa liquor and the other ingredients (sugar and milk, in the case of milk chocolate) until it reaches the desired texture. This process can take hours or days, depending on the quality that the manufacturer wants to achieve.
Finally, the chocolate is tempered and shaped into bars or in any other way desired by the manufacturer. The product is then packaged and ready to hit the shelves.
Liked? Ready to plant a cocoa tree on your patio and make your own chocolate? Um… What a delight!
Source: EcoleChocolat.com and Callebaut.com