It’s a long journey from cocoa tree to chocolate, but one always worth taking! Here are all the most crucial steps that see raw cocoa beans turning into shining chocolate bars:
- HARVESTING. When the cocoa trees that grow in tropical climates start showing the first ripe cocoa pods, these are picked by farmers with a machete and collected right on the field. The cocoa pods are opened and their inside (cocoa beans + white mucilage) is collected inside big buckets and brought to the fermentation center.
- FERMENTING. Together with the white mucilage that surrounds them, the beans are placed into large wooden boxes, and they are turned regularly throughout the following 3-5 days. The temperature inside the box raises naturally to 40-50°, enabling all the bacterial and yeast activities to take place.
- DRYING. After some days in the fermentation box, the cocoa beans still contain a high level of moisture that needs to be removed to avoid molding. The beans are moved to outdoor patios or movable carros to dry outside under the sun for a few more days. Once dried, the beans are sorted, bagged and shipped.
- ROASTING. When they receive their precious cacao, chocolate makers roast it for two main reasons: flavor development and sanitization. Times and temperatures will vary depending on the bean type and specific goal of each chocolate maker.
- CRACKING & WINNOWING. After roasting, the outer shell of the beans becomes thin and brittle. The beans can then be cracked and the shells be winnowed from the cocoa nibs that will be used for the production of chocolate.
- GRINDING & CONCHING. These two processes are often combined in one single machine, the melangeur. First, the nibs are ground into a thick paste known as cocoa mass. While the cocoa mass keeps being refined inside the melangeur, chocolate makers add all the other ingredients like sugar, milk or vanilla. This step will be completed when the desired texture and flavor are achieved.
- TEMPERING. During this process, the temperature of the chocolate is raised and lowered to achieve the right consistency and the stabilization of the crystals. This is what gives the chocolate its traditional shine and sharp snap.
- MOULDING. Once tempered, the melted chocolate is poured into the stylish molds and either tapped against a hard surface or put on vibrating platforms to remove air bubbles.
- WRAPPING. When the chocolate has completely cooled down, the final bar is carefully inspected to meet quality standards, and then wrapped in foil or paper packaging to keep it fresh.
The chocolate is finally ready to be savoured and enjoyed. What a journey!