Journey of Cocoa to Chocolate
- Author: Apeksha Rawat Published: 9th December, 2019
Cocoa is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, which only grows in the tropical heat of the equatorial forest. It is the key ingredient in chocolate. The paste or liquor extracted from the processed cocoa beans is used to make cocoa powder and chocolate. People of all age groups love chocolates but not everyone knows where it comes from. The cocoa seed goes through many steps before transforming into chocolate.
Read further to know the step-by-step journey of cocoa to chocolate:
The process of making chocolate begins with the cacao tree, which grows 20 degrees north and south of the equator. They grow well in a mix of hot temperatures, rain, and shade. Each tree has oval fruits or pods, which are about 5-12 inches long. Each pod contains 30-50 seeds that are known as cacao or cocoa beans.
Harvesting the Cacao Pods:
The cacao pod will begin to ripe in 5-6 months after it flowers. When ripen, they turn into yellow/orange color. The ripening pods are typically harvested twice per year. After harvesting, the pods are opened and their seeds are removed, which are further grown in five columns surrounded by a white pulp or pith.
Fermentation of Beans:
The beans are cleaned by hand with the pulp left on to develop flavour. When they are exposed to light, the cream-colored beans turn into purplish color. Then they are fermented through one of two methods- the heap method (popular in Africa) and via the system of cascading boxes (in Latin America). In both methods, the beans are covered with banana leaves. Through the period of fermentation (2-9 days), the beans begin to take on color and some of the flavours recognized as chocolate.
Drying & Shipping of Beans:
Fermented beans are dried on wooden boards or bamboo mats for 7 to 14 days under the hot sun. Once dried, the beans are graded, bundled, and checked for quality. Later, they are shipped and traded in the international market.
Preparing Cocoa Mass or Cocoa Liquor:
Beans are blended with other origins for desired characteristics. They are cleaned and roasted at low temperatures to develop flavour. Shells are separated from the nibs through the process called winnowing. Nibs are finely grounded into cocoa mass and on being placed under extremely high pressure, this paste yields two products- cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
Production of Chocolate:
The cocoa mass is combined with more cocoa butter and sweetener to make chocolate. All the raw ingredients are mixed, grind, and knead into a paste. Also, the ingredients used are dependent on the type of chocolate being made. The cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar are required to make the dark chocolate, which by adding milk powder makes milk chocolate. The white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder.
It is the process of rolling, kneading, heating, and aeration. Conching is an important step in the process of producing pure and delicious gourmet chocolate.
Tempering & Moulding:
The tempering process is the raising and lowering of the temperature of the chocolate to form the perfect kind of crystals. During this process, the cocoa butter reaches its most stable form and gives the chocolate a shiny and smooth surface. The melted chocolate is simply poured into plastic bar-shaped molds and agitated to remove any air bubbles.
Chocolate is the soul food prepared with great excellence. It is relished around the world in its raw form or as an important ingredient in several desserts.