How Chocolate Is Made
1. Cultivation of Cacao:
The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), which grows north and south of the Equator within 20 ° and thrives on a combination of hot temperatures, rain, and shade, begins with chocolate.
Each tree bears oval fruits that are around 5-12 inches long, or pods. Each pod contains 30-50 seeds, and the globe recognizes these seeds as cacao (or cocoa) beans.
What is the distinction between cacao and cocoa? Usually, the tree, pod, and bean/seed are referred to as “cacao,” while the term “cocoa” is reserved for the bean after fermenting, drying, and roasting it.
When they turn a bright yellow/orange hue, cacao pods are ripe. Hanging from the trunk and largest branches on small stems, the ripening pods are typically harvested twice per year, though they can be harvested continually.
The pods are opened and their seeds removed after being chopped off. Each seed is approximately the size of an olive. In five columns surrounded by a white pulp or pith, the seeds (or “beans”) grow.
This pulp, called baba, was used in Latin America to make fermented cacao wine as early as 3,000 years ago.
Beans are washed by hand, to help improve flavor, with the baba left on. The cream-colored beans, exposed to light, turn a purplish hue.
Then they are ready for fermentation by one of two methods: in Africa, where beans are heaped in piles on the ground, the “heap method” is popular; and in Latin America, a system of cascading boxes is preferred.
In both methods, beans are covered with banana leaves. During the 2–9 days of fermentation, beans begin to take on color and some of the flavors you would recognize as “chocolate.”
4. Drying & Shipping:
Fermented beans must be dried with care. For anywhere from 7 to 14 days under the hot sun, they are placed either on wooden boards or bamboo mats, and are constantly raked and turned over for consistent drying.
The beans are graded, packed into bags, wrapped, and tested for consistency once they are dried. On the foreign market, they are then exported and exchanged.
Or the beans are shipped directly to the chocolate maker in the case of direct exchange (for art, bean-to-bar chocolates).
5. Preparing Cocoa Mass
“Once obtained by the processor, for desired characteristics, beans can be mixed with other origins and estates (or kept separate as “single-origin chocolate”).
To produce flavor, beans are washed, then roasted at low temperatures. A method called winnowing removes shells from the nibs (the “meat” of the bean).
At room temperature, nibs are finely ground into cocoa mass (a.k.a. cocoa liquor), which is solid. This paste, which is put under extremely high pressure, yields two products: cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
6. Producing Chocolate:
Or, to produce chocolate, the cocoa mass can simply be mixed with more cocoa butter and sweetener. Mixing, grinding and kneading the different raw materials into a paste are the first steps.
The ingredients used depend on the kind of chocolate that is made. Dark chocolate only includes cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar. It makes milk chocolate by adding milk powder.
Cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder (but no cocoa mass/liquor) are created with white chocolate. Since it contains no cocoa mass, it is not considered a true chocolate by some.
“Conching” is a cautious rolling, kneading, heating, and aeration method. A conche is a large agitator that under heat stirs and smooths the mixture.
This is a significant step in the production process of reliable, pure, and delicious gourmet chocolate, and the final aroma and flavor are described here.
At this stage, for essential fluidity, soy lecithin and cocoa butter can be added. Then the chocolate is refined until smooth (and the longer a chocolate is conched, the smoother it will be).
8. Tempering & Moulding:
Now the chocolate is done and ready for final processing. It must first be placed into blocks or drops (also called “pistols”) in order to be shipped to a chocolatier.
This technique involves “tempering” by which chocolate is brought to a certain temperature slowly. Chocolate tempering is something any aspiring baker or chocolate maker may attempt at home.
The cocoa butter achieves its most stable state during the tempering process; this gives its “snap,” shiny surface, and smoothness to well-tempered chocolate.