We all know that chocolates are made from beans. It would not be wrong to call chocolates a plant because they are made from seeds of the Cacao Tree. Each and every step in the process is important as they together bring out the intense flavor of chocolate. Here is the entire process described in detail.
Cacao trees continuously produce buds. These trees are normally found in subtropical regions such as Central America or Africa. The mature cacao pods from the Cacao trees are collected by hand. These pods are then broken open to remove the cacao beans embedded in a white pulp-like substance inside. These beans are collected in a large quantity in a box with a lid.
The white pulp-like covering around each bean then ferments and gets converted into alcohol due to the presence of yeast in the air. This alcohol, in due time, turns into lactic and acetic acid. The box has a few holes which allow the liquid forming inside to drain through. When only the beans are left inside, they gather moisture from the environment and soften. This causes their flavors to change into a very complex chocolaty one. This process of fermentation takes up to eight days.
Drying and Storage
The fermented cacao beans are now called cocoa. They have a high moisture content and they need to be dried now. They can either be dried in the sun or in sheds. Once their moisture content is reduced by 6 to 7%, they are then stored in bags according to sizes and quality. These are then sent to chocolate manufacturers for further procedures.
In the Manufacturing Plant
Each manufacturer has its own secret recipe of chocolate manufacturing from bean to bar. This includes the type and quality of beans and their secret ingredients. The beans are extensively sampled and tested. They reject the ones with low quality, mold or insect defects, etc. After that, the best quality beans are then converted to chocolate liquor. This liquor is further tasted by chocolate tasters to evaluate the aroma and flavor. Lastly, the beans are cleaned to remove any unwanted debris. They are then roasted from 10 to 35 minutes depending upon their formula.
As the beans are roasted, their outer shell separates. This step is called cracking or fanning. The cracked beans are called cocoa nibs. The cracked outer shell is light in weight and can be winnowed from the inner cocoa kernel. These outer shells are blown away using air currents. These resulting cocoa nibs have 53% cocoa butter.
The beans are then ground in a mill or a grinding machine. The crushed beans are known as chocolate liquid or chocolate liquor. Other ingredients such as cocoa mass, sugar, milk powder, etc are added then to equalize all the particles. This rolling process ensures that the cocoa butter is evenly distributed and the flavor of the chocolate is enhanced. This process gives the chocolate its rich, smooth and creamy texture.
After this process, different chocolate manufacturers use their own secret formulas, techniques and ingredients to create their own brand of chocolate. Some go through intense conching procedures to get creamier chocolates, while some use other techniques.