How is Chocolate Made?

To learn how chocolate is made, you need to start with the fruit of the cacao plant.

Theobrama Cacao – The Cacao Tree

This amazing plant can produce up to 2000 pods in a year. The pods, which contain cocoa seeds, are typically harvested only twice per year. The tree itself is fairly fragile, so harvesters have to be careful not to damage it. The bumpy, oblong-shaped pod – or fruit – grows not only from the branches, but also sometimes directly out of the trunk of the tree.

Each pod contains about 30 or 40 seeds, covered in a sticky white pulp. It’s from these seeds that cocoa, which gives chocolate its unmistakable flavour, is extracted.

 

Before the beans of the cacao plant are transported to a factory for processing, they’re fermented to reduce the white pulpy substance around them, leaving the beans with a slightly browner colour and a more recognizably chocolaty flavour. After the bean has fermented, it’s left in the sun to dry for about a week.

On to the Factory Line

In a factory, the beans are sifted in a huge sorting machine to remove any foreign objects, such as stones, twigs and pod casings. The beans are then weighed and sorted by variety.

Next the beans are roasted to heighten their flavour and aroma. During this stage, the heat should be kept at just under 100° Celsius, to maintain the beans’ nutritional value. Any higher than that, and the flavanols and antioxidants in the beans will be destroyed.

 

The beans are then “winnowed”, a process in which the outer shell is cracked and blown off, leaving nothing but the crushed and broken pieces of cacao nibs. At this point, the nibs taste like the darkest chocolate you could imagine – chocolaty, but also very bitter.

Next the nibs are ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor. The liquor, which doesn’t contain any actual alcohol, is then sweetened and various ingredients may be added to alter its taste and give it a smoother texture. The majority of manufacturers add refined sugar, vanilla and milk, as well as various artificial additives used to give the chocolate a silky texture.

 

Although at this point the chocolate paste tastes like chocolate, its texture may still be grainy. So the paste undergoes a process known as “conching”, during which it’s mixed, pressed and aerated by a series of long steel rollers. Conching gets its name from the machine that performs it, which looks something like a conch shell.

The paste that results from conching is stirred, cooled, and then reheated slowly. This process is repeated several times, until the chocolate has a suitably glossy texture.

It’s then poured into molds to create chocolate bars or slabs. Finally it’s wrapped, transported to shops and ready to melt in your mouth.

Jeff is a guest author for Chocolate Time, making custom branded dark, milk or sugar-free chocolate, delivering world-wide.

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