Every day thousands of chocolate are taken off the shelves by chocolate lovers. Not a day goes by without someone buying something with chocolate content. It could be a candy, a chocolate bar or a chocolate drink. That everybody loves chocolate cannot be denied. However, most of those who eat chocolate have no idea how it is made or from which tree it comes from.
You will be surprised to find that even those who are hot chocolate suppliers do not know anything about chocolate apart from the type they need to use for their chocolate drink. For this reason, we thought it would be a good idea to bring to you our fellow readers a brief on the chocolate; from tree to the processing.
The cocoa tree
The seeds that are used to make chocolate come from the cocoa tree. This tee bears fruits in pods that are shaped like the ball used in American football. Unfortunately for those who would have loved to have some cocoa tree behind their house, cocoa trees only grow about 20 degrees north of the equator.
Harvesting of cocoa pods
Cocoa pods are normally green when young. When they are ready for harvesting they turn to yellow. They are handpicked by farmers and gathered in a heap. The pods are broken open and the beans with the pulp are left to ferment. It is very important to allow the cocoa to ferment before drying it. It is this process that helps to give chocolate that characteristic flavor.
Once the beans are fermented, they are left to dry by spreading them out in the sun although sometimes machines are used to promote drying. The drying process helps develop further the flavor that started developing during the fermentation process. Once the beans are dried, it is peeled to reveal and separated from the shell. This type of cocoa is now referred to as cocoa nib.
The cocoa nibs and ground into a paste of solids and butter called cocoa liquor. This can be further process to remove the butter leaving behind a hard solid. This solid can be pulverized into what we know as cocoa powder. To get dark chocolate all you do at this point is to add sugar. Add milk powder and the result will be milk chocolate. To make the chocolate better, the cocoa sugar mixture will be put into a conching machine well it will be further mixed and the ground. Conching can take anything from a few minutes to many hours. May high end chocolate take at least 72 hours to do conching. To form the chocolate into bars, it is undergoes a process known as tempering.