There are few things in life tastier than a high-quality chocolate bar. Chocolate is a food which is adored by millions of people all around the world yet it is also a substance that a large percentage of people know very little about (other than its deliciousness). So, what is the genius science behind chocolate and the lifecycle of the cocoa bean? Read on to find out.
In the Fields
At the very first stage of chocolate creation, cacao trees create cacao buds constantly and these are harvested by hand and broken open to release the cacao beans which are scooped out along with the moist white pulp which they were embedded in.
Fermenting & Drying
The pods and pulp are then placed into large wooden containers where the pulp ferments for up to 1 week. The beans are turned throughout this process to help even fermentation and to allow oxygen into the container. The beans are then dried out completely (usually in the sun) as otherwise mould will grow.
Roasting & Winnowing
The responsibility then shifts to the chocolate maker who will roast the beans. How this is achieved varies between chocolate makers and is all part of their specific recipe. Some companies make chocolate at the source where it was harvested but this requires a hot climate. After roasting, there will be a thin shell which will need to be removed through the process of winnowing.
A milling or grinding machine is usually used for the first grinding where the nibs are ground to liquify the cocoa butter (chocolate liquor). Most manufacturers then use a roll refiner or ball mill which distributes cocoa butter evenly and reduces the particle size of the mass. There may also be various ingredients added at this stage, such as sugar, milk or cream powder.
Conching is the process which releases some of the bitterness and develops the flavour of the chocolate liquor through rollers which continuously knead the liquor and its ingredients.
Tempering & Forming
The final stages involve tempering and forming. Tempering is the process of changing the temperature of the chocolate to form the right kind of crystals which will provide the finish and click sound heard when you snap a bar. Forming is simply the process of using bar-shaped moulds to create the desired shape for the chocolate bar.
This is the journey that the cocoa bean will go through to become a tantalising bar of chocolate. It is a method which has been used for many years but each manufacturer will have various tips and tricks to give them their unique and distinctive styles. It is a blend of art and science which, when combined correctly, results in a heavenly taste which is enjoyed by people around the world.