How is Chocolate Made?
The journey to a bar of chocolate, hand dipped caramel and even a chocolate-covered strawberry takes a lot more steps than most of us may realize – but each one is worth it. Everyone loves chocolate, but very few of us know where it is that it comes from – or how it is even made.
Chocolate comes from cacao, a bean that is harvested and transformed into the delectable, luscious chocolate treats you know and love. In order to make chocolate, you need access to two different types of specialists: a chocolate maker and a chocolatier. The chocolate maker converts beans to chocolate, while the chocolatier crafts the finished confection.
The 9 Steps to Chocolate
There are nine important steps that create the end result of sumptuous chocolate treats. These steps include:
- Cultivating the Cacao – Chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which typically grows in tropical climates found south of the Equator. These trees carry oval fruits that are five to 12 inches in length. Inside the oval fruits you will find a pod, which has 30 to 50 seeds – known as the cacao been. These are commonly incorrectly referred to as cocoa beans, but they are not actually “cocoa beans” until they have been fermented, dried and then roasted.
- Harvest – The cacao pods are ripened, chopped off the tree and then opened so the seeds can be removed. The seeds are about the size of a large olive.
- Fermenting – The beans are cleaned and exposed to light until they turn from their yellow/orange color to a purple-like color. They are then ready for the fermentation process, which takes two to nine days. This process is what helps the bean take on the flavor you know as chocolate.
- Drying and Exporting – The fermented beans must be handled with care. They are dried on wood or bamboo mats for seven to fourteen days under the sun. They must be constantly raked and turned for consistent all-around drying. Once they are dried, they are graded and then packed. From there they are sent to the chocolatier (the chocolate maker).
- Creating the Cocoa Liquor – Once the chocolate processor receives the dried cocoa beans, they blend them with other beans or use only those beans from the same supplier. The beans are roasted at low temperatures to help develop their flavor and then the cocoa bean’s shell is separated from the meat of the bean (known as the nib). Nibs can be consumed as is or ground into cocoa powder or cocoa mass (known as cocoa liquor). This mass is solid at room temperature and when placed under high temperatures creates cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
- Chocolate Production – Cocoa mass can be combined with additional cocoa butter and sweeteners to create chocolate. This involves mixing, grinding and kneading the ingredients into a paste. The ingredients used depend on the type of chocolate being made. For example, dark chocolate needs cocoa butter, sugar and cocoa mass. To create milk chocolate, chocolatiers must add milk powder. White chocolate, on the other hand, is created using cocoa butter, milk powder and sugar, but no cocoa liquor or mass. White chocolate is not actually a “true” chocolate because it doesn’t contain mass.
- Conching – This is a very careful process done only by trained experts. It involves rolling, kneading and heating the mixture to produce a consistent, pure chocolate. This process also defines the chocolate’s final taste, aroma and texture.
- Tempering and Molding – The chocolate is finished and ready for its final processing step: tempering. Tempering is when chocolates are slowly, carefully brought to a specific temperature to help the cocoa butter reach its most stable form. This is what gives a final product that shiny surface, smoothness and “snap” chocolate is known for.
- Creating the Final Product – From here, a chocolatier can create just about anything – from dipped chocolates to nut clusters. The possibilities are truly endless with the tempered, ready-to-go chocolate.
Want to See Fine Quality Chocolate in Action?
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