Chocolate: From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate Bar
Cocoa Beans….it all starts with cocoa beans! These little gems are grown inside of cocoa pods on cocoa trees all around the tropics (roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator). Picture Madagascar, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Africa, Australia. This is where the life of chocolate begins. These beans start life inside a cocoa pod and their journey to becoming our favorite food is begun…
A cocoa pod has the shape of a nerf football and the color of a famous Picasso. Inside the pod the strange alien like substance shows itself for the first time. But where are the beans?! The beans are actually hidden inside the fruit of the cocoa pod.
This fruit that surrounds the beans is used in the first step in the chocolate making process, fermentation. Cocoa beans are removed from their pod and heaped into piles or bins with the fruit still attached. Fermentation can take upwards of a week. During this time the beans flavor is beginning to be transformed into the flavor we all know and love, chocolate!
Once the beans have been fermented all the fruit has been dissolved away. The beans now need to be dried. High quality beans are sun dried until the moisture content is too low for harmful things to grow.
Once these beans are dried it is time to ship them to the very people that are going to make chocolate out of them. These companies are all over the world and some great ones are right here in the United States. These companies receive the fermented and dried cocoa beans. At that point they remove the outer husk and roast the beans. Roasting is a key process that creates the greatest change in taste and smell. This is where the cocoa bean starts its adolescence as chocolate. They grow up so quick!
After roasting, the cocoa bean will be ground down into liquid chocolate. Since the cocoa bean is roughly half cocoa butter, when it is ground, it liquifies. At this point the other main ingredients are added; sugar, vanilla and more cocoa butter. These simple ingredients are added to improve the taste and quality of the chocolate. Cocoa butter is added to make a smoother melt in your mouth and the sugar is added to make the chocolate more palatable for the average Joe. Lastly the chocolate is tempered to give it that crisp snap and excellent shine we are all used to. Now it is time to enjoy! Taste and explore!